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APS to principals: ICE agents are not to enter schools

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Roughly a year ago, Albuquerque Public Schools’ superintendent, the Board of Education president and others met with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, coming to what board president David Peercy described as a verbal understanding.

The crux of that understanding was that ICE officers won’t come onto school campuses unless they have a warrant.

But after recent local reports of an “uptick in ICE activity” and a federal push to crack down on sanctuary cities, APS staff drafted a memo to send to all principals, reminding them of protocol if agents were to come to a school.

“Albuquerque Public Schools strongly believes that schools are meant to be safe places for all children, including those who are undocumented,” a draft memo presented to the school board on Wednesday stated.

The memo says immigration officials aren’t permitted to come onto school campuses and assures that APS educates students regardless of immigration status.

“We want to remind you that ICE agents are not to enter Albuquerque Public Schools’ property to arrest or detain students or family members,” the memo states.

It does, though, caution staff not to defy ICE should they come onto a campus and says administrators have no authority to deny federal orders or warrants signed by a judge. The document instructs principals to call their supervisor and APS police if they were ever in a situation where ICE officers were looking to get on school property.

Brandon Baca, manager of the Refugee and Newcomer Supports program at APS, said the memo aims to get principals on the same page and to outline resources. The district is aiming to send out the memo as soon as possible.

Peercy said ICE leadership has been amenable to the district’s policies.

The memo comes among substantial fear in local families about deportations, Baca said.

“It’s causing a lot of fear and panic in the community and multiple community organizations have reached out to me to ask what we can do to support,” Baca told the board on Wednesday. “I’d have to say I’m really concerned about this.”

Fabiola Landeros, a community organizer with local immigrants rights organization El Centro de Igualdad y Derechos, said it’s a crucial time for the district to reiterate these procedures.

“Although schools around the nation have been deemed as ‘sensitive locations’ and ICE should not be conducting enforcement activities anyway, given the local uptick of ICE activity, and that ICE has become increasingly emboldened and aggressive with little regard to safety and upholding constitutional rights, it is more important than ever that APS upholds its policy so that all families feel safe taking their kids to school,” she told the Journal.

ICE spokeswoman Leticia Zamarripa didn’t answer whether ICE activity was increasing in the city, nor did she give any Albuquerque-specific information. But her statement said, in part, that local jurisdictions “that refuse to cooperate with ICE are likely to see an increase in ICE enforcement activity, as ICE has no choice but to conduct more at-large arrest operations.”

Baca told the Journal he’s not aware of attempts by ICE agents trying to come onto campuses in the year and a half he has been in his role.

APS is working with organizations in the community, including El Centro de Igualdad y Derechos, to offer “Know Your Rights” trainings for students and parents.

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