Dozens of parents, teachers and advocates rallied before Tuesday’s Panel for Educational Policy meeting in Brooklyn to call on the education department to do more to protect and reassure its undocumented students.
President Trump has amped up immigration enforcement and spoke derisively about Mexicans and Muslims on the campaign train, stirring fear among immigrants that they were no longer welcome in the country.
In these anxious times, advocates argue, the city’s education department should put an immigrant liaison in every school and require any immigration enforcement officials to obtain approval from the chancellor’s office before entering schools.
“We’re asking [the DOE] to push forward to be a leader in the country,” said Diana Eusebio, an advocate with New York State Leadership Council who has undocumented family members and qualifies for protection under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. (The rally took place right before news broke that Trump, in a seemingly bizarre policy switch, had suggested he could be interested in comprehensive immigration reform.)
In January, Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña sent a joint letter with Commissioner Nisha Agarwal of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs stressing that all undocumented students have the right to attend school. The letter also said ICE agents will be barred from schools “without proper legal authority” and that the city does not collect information about the immigration status of its students.
Eusebio referred to the letter as a “band-aid” and said the chancellor needs to say more to immigrant communities.
At a press conference earlier on Tuesday, Fariña promised that the city will soon provide additional information and that no ICE agents will be allowed in classrooms.
“The best place to be protected is in your school,” Fariña said.
She also addressed those concerns during the PEP meeting, assuring the audience that new guidelines will be announced in the next two weeks.
City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who dedicated her State of the City address to immigration protections, said she is exploring whether more can legally be done to protect students in schools, such as barring ICE agents altogether.
While New York City’s pledge to support immigrant students follows a nationwide trend, some other cities have gone one step further and symbolically granted the school system “sanctuary” status. New York City is already considered a sanctuary city, but the school system hasn’t formally made that gesture.