By Patrick Donachie
School staff will not allow federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents into New York City public schools or provide them with any information unless it is absolutely required by law, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday.
“With these updated guidelines, we are reinforcing the fact that a school is a safe and protected location,” de Blasio said. “We will not allow ICE agents to threaten that protection, disrupt classes or take any action that would be detrimental to our students, whose safety is our No. 1 concern. We are a city of immigrants and we — along with many other cities across the nation — intend to stay that way.”
The new protocols came as New York City participated in the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Cities Day of Immigration Action, which intended to show support for immigrants living in urban areas throughout the country. In guidance sent to DOE principals, the city stressed that current ICE and U.S. Customs and Border Protection policy limits agency actions at “sensitive locations,” which includes schools.
Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), the chair of the Council’s Education Committee, said the updated protocols offer clarity in the midst of an anxious period for school staff and immigrant students.
“Thanks to these new trainings, teachers and staff will be equipped with the knowledge they need to care for our children,” he said. “We must never allow the misuse and abuse of federal immigration law enforcement to rob our young people of a quality education.”
If an ICE agent seeks to gain access to a school, however, the DOE said principals should meet them at the school safety agent desk, inquire about all identification and any documentation the agent may have, and advise the agent that until the school gets advice from DOE legal counsel, the agent must wait outside the facility.
In the protocol, the DOE stressed that ICE and other federal agents could enter schools facilities with a warrant, but it depends upon the scope of the warrant and whether it was properly issued, and agents should not enter until legal counsel has reviewed the court order. ICE agents could also enter schools under “exigent circumstances,” or with consent, but the DOE made clear that would not be forthcoming.
“DOE does not consent to non-local law enforcement accessing school facilities in any circumstances, and principals and other school personnel may not give consent,” the guidelines read.
The Immigrant Affairs’ office will also partner with NYC Health + Hospitals in order to host a number of forums on the health care rights of immigrants, including how immigrants can access care and what services are available regardless of immigration status. A forum in Queens will be held next March 29, from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the NYC Health + Hospitals Elmhurst Hospital Center, located at 79-01 Broadway.
Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdona