As the Trump administration expands its deportation policy, Chicago Public Schools told its principals Tuesday that they should not let any agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement into schools without a criminal warrant.
“To be very clear, CPS does not provide assistance to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in the enforcement of federal civil immigration law,” chief education officer Janice Jackson wrote. “Therefore, ICE should not be permitted access to CPS facilities or personnel except in the rare instance in which we are provided with a criminal warrant. If presented with any paperwork from ICE, please call the Law Department before taking any action.”
She said that “ICE agents should wait outside while the school is reviewing the matter with the Law Department.”
The district also distributed palm cards in English and Spanish from the National Immigrant Justice Center containing such legal advice as not opening doors to immigration officials who do not have a warrant. And it advised schools to have parents update their emergency contact form with back-up contacts, saying, “If a child is left stranded at your school and you suspect it is because his or her parent is detained, please exhaust the child’s emergency contact list,” and to “have a staff member remain with the student.”
CPS spokewoman Emily Bittner said in an email Tuesday night that she was “not aware of any instances” in which ICE agents tried to enter or were granted entry to any CPS schools.
A representative for ICE could not be reached Tuesday night.
Within weeks of the election of President Donald Trump, who campaigned on building a wall along the country’s southern border to keep out undocumented immigrants, the Board of Education proclaimed Chicago a “welcoming district” where students didn’t have to disclose their immigration status in order to attend classes.
But immigrants rights advocates quickly pressured the board to take concrete steps to protect immigrant students and families. Some schools meanwhile have held workshops on their own for teachers, students and parents to learn their legal rights if questioned by authorities.
CPS won’t say how many students may be undocumented. But more than 46 percent of CPS students identify as Hispanic and another 17 percent are considered English language learners.
Last week on A Day Without Immigrants, more than 50,000 of CPS’ 381,000 students were absent — with attendance of Hispanic students down significantly. Nearly a quarter of all Hispanic students didn’t go to school, CPS said. And more than 100 schools saw attendance rates fall below 80 percent of what they were a year earlier.
“We know that some families are concerned about sending their children to school at this time, but we firmly believe that the safest and most beneficial place for your children is a classroom alongside their fellow students where they can work toward a bright future,” Jackson wrote in a separate letter to parents. “The strength of Chicago Public Schools lies in its diversity, and regardless of which CPS school you attend, your children are supported and loved. We hope that the attached resources will be useful in addressing some of the concerns you may have.”