Amid mounting concerns over President Donald Trump’s recent revisions to U.S. immigration laws, Chicago Public Schools on Tuesday, Feb. 22, advised principals not to allow immigration enforcement officials into school buildings unless they have a criminal warrant.
The new protocols, forwarded to principals from CPS Chief Education Officer Janice Jackson this week, were a part of additional materials acknowledging the community’s concern and “anxiety about immigration matters” amid the president’s promise to crack down on illegal immigration, The Chicago Tribune reported.
The Department of Homeland Security recently announced an expansion of U.S. immigration enforcement efforts aimed at undocumented immigrants who’ve been convicted of any crime or have unresolved criminal charges.
In the event that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, officials arrive at a Chicago school, principals are advised to immediately contact CPS attorneys, according to the list of guidelines sent to school officials. Principals were told to have ICE agents wait outside the school while the matter is reviewed by the law department.
The district also advised principals to encourage parents to update their children’s emergency contact forms.
“If a child is left stranded at your school and you suspect it is because his or her parent is being detained, please exhaust the child’s emergency contact list,” the new CPS guidelines read. “Please have a staff member remain with the student until the parent, guardian or emergency contact can arrive.”
Emily Bittner, a spokeswoman for the district, said there have been no reports of ICE agents showing up to district schools, but that some principals had questions on how to handle the matter in the event they did.
“To be very clear, CPS does not provide assistance to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the enforcement of federal civil immigration law,” CPS wrote in its letter to principals. “Therefore, ICE should not be permitted access to CPS facilities or personnel except in the rare instance in which we are provided with a criminal warrant.”
The Chicago Sun-Times reported that the district also distributed palm cards in both English and Spanish from the National Immigrant Justice Center with advice on how to interact with ICE agents, such as not opening the door for officials who do not have a warrant. The district didn’t disclose how many of its students may be undocumented but said over 46 percent of students identify as Latino/Hispanic.
Last week’s “A Day Without Immigrants” national protest resulted in more than 50,000 of CPS’ 381,000 students being absent from school, with attendance among Latino students taking a nosedive, according to the district. Almost a quarter of Latino students failed to show up for school amid the Feb. 16 protests.
“We know that some families are concerned about sending their children to school at this time, but we firmly believe that the safest and most beneficial place for your children is a classroom alongside their fellow students where they can work toward a bright future,” Jackson said in a separate letter sent to parents.
“The strength of Chicago Public Schools lies in its diversity, and regardless of which CPS school you attend, your children are supported and loved,” she added. “We hope that the attached resources will be useful in addressing some of the concerns you may have.”