BB&K In the News Jul 20, 2017

Advocates Say Schools Can Help Alleviate Students’ Fears of Parent Deportation

Partner Dina Harris Discusses Legalities with

Advocates Say Schools Can Help Alleviate Students’ Fears of Parent Deportation

Because U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement normally will not conduct enforcement actions at schools, schools can connect fearful families with information and community service organizations, an advocate said.

"There is a lot schools can do and under federal law are required to do" to support students of immigrant families, said Wendy D. Cervantes, senior policy analyst for Immigration and Immigrant Families at the Center for Law and Social Policy Inc.

She said students from immigrant families, particularly families in which at least one parent or close relative is undocumented, are under a lot of stress that can impede academic achievement.

Cervantes referred to the U.S. Supreme Court case, Plyler v. Doe, 108 LRP 64833, 457 U.S. 202 (1982), in which the Court held that public elementary and secondary schools may not deny any child residing in the applicable jurisdiction access to public education -- whether the child is present in the country legally or otherwise. She also referred to FERPA provisions that ensure privacy of student educational records.

Dina Harris, a partner specializing in education law at Best Best & Krieger LLP, which has offices in California and Washington, D.C., said schools are not allowed to release student records to anyone without a court order or the parents' written permission. Even with a warrant or subpoena, she said FERPA also gives schools time to respond, usually enough time for parents to get a legal motion to quash.

Practice often differs from district policy when school front office staff sees an agent and panics, Harris said.

Districts have policies about the release of student records and about allowing visitors on campus, she said. The same rules would apply to any law enforcement agent who wants to interview a student.

School sites should not allow anyone except the parent to contact a student or obtain any records without contacting the superintendent, district office, or legal counsel, Harris said.

Give students space to talk

Cervantes recalled a recent visit to a school where staff were not aware that students were under so much stress until the school social worker listened to students tell CLASP representatives about their fears that they or their parents might be deported.

"There's a lot of power in kids knowing they are not alone," she said.

Schools also can give parents tools to talk to their children, Cervantes said.

Cervantes said schools should:

  • Review policies with front-office staff that they should call the superintendent or district's legal counsel if ICE or any other agents request entry.
  • Develop policies for what administrators would do if a student's parents are deported.
  • Ensure schools are safe spaces, free of bullying and racism, and spaces where students can talk to peers about shared concerns.
  • Create welcoming, tolerant environments that are safe spaces for all students. 

Some protections remain

Although the Trump administration has left Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals in place, the Department of Homeland Security rescinded Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents in a June 15 memo.

The ICE sensitive locations policy remains in effect, and the U.S. Education Department has a fact sheet for families and school staff on the policy. Both schools and school bus stops are among sensitive locations where ICE agents will not normally conduct enforcement activities.

Cervantes suggested that school bus stops should be explicitly marked, and she said districts should erect signs identifying locations as bus stops if they have the resources.

Students fear parents will be deported

She said the current environment of immigration enforcement has created fear among students that their families may be deported after:

  • Home raids, often in the early morning when children can see their parents being arrested and taken away.
  • Check-in with immigration officers, although immigrants are in automatic violation if they do not show up.
  • Traffic stops. 

Advocates have urged families to create a plan including who would have temporary custody of children if the parents are deported and a plan for the family's financial assets and liabilities.

"I'm not sure it's the school's place to advise parents, but it is the school's place to connect families to resources," Cervantes said.

Schools can allow space on campus for family training sessions with immigrant service organizations, other community groups, and immigration attorneys that can instruct families on their rights, she said.

– Dayna Straehley covers ELs and other Title I issues for LRP Publications.

2017© LRP Publications

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