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Are Philadelphia Teachers Trained to Deal with ICE Agents?

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The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) federal agency is not allowed to engage in immigration enforcement actions in sensitive locations, such as churches, schools, funerals, and medical appointments, unless there is an urgent reason to do so. After an incident at a Philadelphia school last year, many families are concerned whether immigration statuses will be questioned at school. Last February, a pregnant mother was arrested at a Philadelphia elementary school almost immediately after dropping off her preschooler at the establishment. Schools are not allowed to know, ask about, or have confidential information about the immigration statuses of students or their parents. Although the mother was released the same day, the unusual ICE involvement caused many immigrant families to feel anxious.

Nearly one year after the ICE incident, a local Latinx organization is strongly advocating for stricter and updated guidelines on how to protect children in the school system, regardless of their immigration status. Juntos, the leading organization that is pushing for clearer regulations, is launching the Sanctuary Schools Campaign to train teachers and faculty members about ICE enforcement and privacy rights. According to Juntos, approximately 75 percent of educators have not been trained and do not know how to handle circumstances with ICE agents. This revelation came after a yearlong survey of 350 Philadelphia schools.

The new data reveals that teachers, faculty members, and others within the education system need to be properly trained on how to handle ICE involvement and how to protect the rights of their students, as well as their parents. If a parent or student is concerned about deportation or how their immigration status will affect their education, it is imperative to speak to an immigration lawyer.

What are the Goals of the Sanctuary Schools Campaign?

Members of the Sanctuary Schools Campaign, as well as partner organizations and supporters alike, are making the following proposals to the Philadelphia School Board:

  • Clear directives that private student information should not be asked about or released, including their immigration status.
  • Training for school staff that involves what to do if approached by ICE agents. Members and supporters of the campaign also want the district to notify immigrant families of local ICE actions.
  • Educators to deny unlawful ICE requests.
  • Refusal of additional metal detectors, facial scanners, and other data mining software.
  • Strict penalties for staff members that do not abide by the regulations.

The overall goal of the campaign is to protect the rights of immigrant and undocumented students and their parents. An important part of the campaign is that school staff members need to be trained on how to better handle immigration matters that affect students.

Are Schools Allowed to Collect Identifying Documents?

Schools are not allowed to discriminate or require information about the immigration status of students and their parents. Additionally, students are not required to provide specific confidential information, such as a Social Security number or birth certificate. Inappropriate identifying documents should not be given to school staff.

What Should Families Know About ICE Enforcement Activities?

ICE and the Department of Homeland Security are not permitted to intervene in sensitive locations. There are exigent circumstances, but these are rare occurrences. Typically, these government entities will not surveil, interview, or arrest a person at school. Although it is extremely unlikely to encounter an ICE agent or raid at school, a family should have a plan in place in case of separation. According to the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, families are recommended to do the following:

  • Update emergency contact information at the school.
  • Create a list of emergency contacts and important documents.
  • Have a person temporarily oversee a child’s care.
  • Register the child’s birth information to the U.S. consulate.

Although it may be rare to encounter these circumstances, families should have a plan in place for peace of mind. Additionally, it is important to speak to an immigration lawyer if one is concerned about their status.

How Should School Staff Members Handle ICE Agents?

Schools should instill that it is very unlikely to encounter immigration enforcement in the education system. If an incident does happen, school staff should do the following:

  • Have the ICE agents speak to the superintendent. An ICE agent should have a judicial warrant that is signed by a judge. The superintendent should request and verify identification, as well as inform the agents about the school’s policies and request not to act on school grounds.
  • School staff should not reveal a student’s immigration status. This information is confidential.
  • Staff should speak to parents. If a student is detained, it is important to notify parents or legal guardians.

It is vital that schools remain proactive about creating a safe environment for students and their families. All students should feel welcome, and educators should strive to create a secure, positive environment at the school.

Should I Speak to an Immigration Lawyer?

Students have rights, regardless of their immigration status, and it is crucial that educators abide by these rights in order to protect the students and their families. A teacher should never reveal confidential information about a student or their parents. If parents or students encounter ICE agents within a school setting, it is critical to speak to an immigration lawyer. ICE agents must follow strict regulations; they cannot take action in sensitive locations unless there is an emergency. An immigration lawyer will fight to protect their client against unlawful deportation and other illegal penalties.

Philadelphia Immigration Lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. Advocate for the Rights of Immigrant Students

School staff should be informed and well-trained on how to handle immigration enforcement actions from ICE agents. Although these occurrences are rare, educators should at least be knowledgeable about the right steps to take. If you feel you were illegally detained while at school or another public setting, a Philadelphia immigration lawyer at Surin & Griffin, P.C. can help you with your case. Complete our online form or call us at 215-925-4435 for an initial consultation. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and nationwide.

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