2017-05-11 / Front Page

No immigration raids in schools

Despite rumors
By Amy Hubbell and Alan Campbell
of the Enterprise staff

Anxiety over immigration is on the rise in some communities in Leelanau County as the growing season begins and seasonal migrant workers return to the area.

A somewhat frantic caller offered a tip to an Enterprise reporter last week that all public schools were being raided by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers.

How do you know that to be true, the reporter asked.

Well all you have to do is contact the schools, the caller said, and she knew it to be true because she read it on one of the “Indivisible” websites that have popped up across the country.

“Unfortunately, we are receiving those calls,” said Khaalid Walls, a public information officer for ICE based in Detroit. “There is some dangerous misinformation that has been spread by various groups and individuals, and it’s unfortunate.”

Walls said that ICE deportation policies have not changed with the Trump administration, and they remain specific in providing protections for students in schools.

“Current ICE policy directs agency personnel to avoid conducting enforcement activities at sensitive locations unless they have prior approval from an appropriate supervisory official or in the event of exigent circumstances,” Walls wrote in an email.

“Sensitive” areas identified by ICE include schools, places of worship and hospitals. Deportation actions in schools require prior approval from higher-ups.

Walls, a nine-year employee of ICE, was more specific when pressed about ICE officers entering schools as part of a round-up effort.

“I can tell you from my own experience that I’ve never seen that happen ... the notion that we are pursuing some type of dragnet or round up is patently false. The focus, like it was with the previous administration, is people sought for national security, public safety and border security reasons.”

Still, concern about stepped-up deportation efforts under the Trump administration — which have been covered by national media — has prompted two state of Michigan departments to recommend a policy aimed at protecting public school students on campus.

It’s of particular interest in Leelanau’s agricultural communities where farmers rely heavily on migrant farm labor to harvest crops. The policy recommended by the state agencies was adopted Monday by the Suttons Bay Board of Education.

“There’s a scare in the migrant community now about an increase in raids,” Superintendent Chris Nelson said.

He also mentioned a 100-fold increase in the number of ICE agents is among the rumors in circulation. However, no new ICE agents have been added. The Trump administration is seeking to beef up ranks, but will need funding from Congress.

“The community is nervous. We don’t want kids to be fearful of coming to school,” Nelson said.

The policy establishes how school officials would respond if immigration law enforcement agents were to make a visit.

It requires an ICE officer to provide identification and a warrant. If no warrant exists, staff is to request the grounds for access to the student and contact legal counsel as well as the students’ parents or guardian.

Michigan schools cannot deny an education to undocumented children. In fact, state law requires that undocumented students attend school until they reach a “mandated age,” according to a joint letter penned by Michigan Department of Civil Rights Director Agustin Arbulu and State Superintendent of Schools.

“Law enforcement agencies that seek to use schools and students as a means to locate or access undocumented immigrants may violate the civil rights of students and in some cases … Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA),” the letter states. “We encourage all school districts to seek legal advice before taking steps that would result in violations of the ELCRA and other related state and federal law.”

To date Suttons Bay is the first of the county’s four public schools to adopt the recommended policy.

According to the state website mischooldata.com, Hispanic students comprise about 20 percent of Suttons Bay’s enrollment this year.

Leland’s Hispanic enrollment also comes in at about 20 percent; Northport, 17 percent.

Glen Lake Superintendent Sander Scott called the rumors about ICE raids “far fetched.” Less than 5 percent of his school enrollment identifies as Hispanic.

“They’re not going to come in and snatch up kids,” he said.

Christie Bardenhagen, co-chair of the League of Women Voters Leelanau County’s farm labor task force has also heard the rumored ICE raids, but has not been able to substantiate them.

“We’ve heard about possible actions, but we’re not aware any have happened,” Bardenhagen said. “I have no other information.”

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