UPDATED May 15, 9:30 a.m.
Staff members at P.S. 58 in Maspeth “did the right thing” by turning back an immigration official who showed up there last week looking for a fourth-grade student, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz said on Sunday.
According to WPIX-TV, the agent came to the School of Heroes located at the corner of Grand and 57th avenues on Thursday morning, May 11, and asked administrators about an unidentified fourth-grader at the location. Eric Phillips, a spokesperson for Mayor Bill de Blasio, said the school rebuffed the agent’s request.
But on Monday morning, May 15, a spokesperson for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) told NY1 that it had sent two representatives to P.S. 58 merely to verify the fourth-grader’s information for an “immigration benefit request.” The request was not in the student’s name, and USCIS maintained that its representatives did not ask to see the youngster.
Both Katz and Congresswoman Grace Meng have praised P.S. 58 officials for dismissing the ICE agent from school grounds. Earlier this year, ICE conducted raids in East Elmhurst that alarmed many immigration advocates in Queens; there was also a report of thieves posing as ICE agents in Woodside who threatened to deport individuals who didn’t pay them.
“P.S. 58 officials did the right thing by following proper protocols of the city administration, stopping the agents at the door and protecting their students. No parent should have to worry about any unauthorized persons or entities reaching their children while in school,” Katz said in a statement on May 14. “The city’s protocols help instill confidence throughout school communities and prevent widespread disruption and fear. Queens schools are to be off-limits to federal immigration agents.”
“This incident raises many questions and we will certainly be seeking answers in the coming days,” Meng added in her own statement on Sunday. “Our schools must be a safe and welcoming environment for all students, regardless of their immigration status or the status of their families.”