Phoenix Elementary School District Bans ICE Officers From Campuses
Historically, schools have been considered off-limits for immigration officials. Like churches and hospitals, they're deemed "sensitive locations." Under the Obama administration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials were banned from arresting people or conducting interviews there.
Under the Trump administration, though, that policy has changed. ICE's website now says that enforcement actions at schools "should generally be avoided." It also says that those actions require either prior approval from a supervisor or "exigent circumstances necessitating immediate action."
What might those circumstances look like? We don't know, because it hasn't happened yet.
In response to this uncertainty, Phoenix Elementary School District #1 is promising to protect undocumented students by actively resisting immigration enforcement on campus.
A letter sent home with students (and posted on Facebook by local blog PHX SUX) states that immigration officers will not be allowed on school grounds.
"Should an immigration officer or any representative of an immigration enforcement agency attempt to enter campus, they are to be denied entry," the letter from CEO Larry Weeks says. "They should immediately be directed to my office and not allowed access to the campus, the students, the staff or community members on our campuses at that time."
Staff members and security officers are required to inform Weeks if any immigration officers attempt to enter school grounds, the letter goes on to say. (All school district personnel received the guidelines on March 2.)
It's still possible that immigration officials could get a warrant to enter the school. In that case, the letter says, they'll be accompanied by a district administrator at all times while on campus.
"Our job is to educate and protect the members of our district community," Weeks concludes. "Should you see any form of injustice in our community regarding this matter, I ask that you bring it to my attention immediately."
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The 14 schools that make up Phoenix Elementary School District #1 have a total of 7,391 students enrolled, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Eighty-two percent of the students are Hispanic, and 14.6 percent have limited English proficiency.
How many of those are students are undocumented is unclear, since no one tracks that information. But the Pew Research Center estimates that undocumented immigrants make up 1.3 percent of all K-12 students at public schools in the U.S.
Phoenix Union High School District has not issued a similar letter to parents, spokesman Craig Pletenick said.
You can view the full letter from Phoenix ESD here:
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