Los Angeles, CA – Please attribute the following statement on reports that an immigration agent sought a fourth-grade student at a New York City school to Thomas A. Saenz, president and general counsel of MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund):
“Reports from the New York City Mayor’s office that a federal immigration agent went to a public school in Queens looking for a fourth grader are extremely disturbing. While the Department of Homeland Security should respect all sensitive locations and defer immigration enforcement at those locales, public schools have constitutional protection from such activity.
This year marks the 35th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Plyler v. Doe, which established the constitutional right of all children to attend public school from kindergarten through 12th grade regardless of immigration status. That constitutional right is meaningless if students can be dragged out of public schools or questioned at public schools about their immigration status. While Congress has acted to endorse the right in Plyler, it remains a constitutional right that immigration agents, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the President himself are powerless to change or alter.
Immigration agents are thus obliged to stay away from children in public schools, and public schools are obliged to keep immigration agents out of the schools. MALDEF thanks the Queens school officials who turned the federal agent seeking a fourth-grader away. All school officials should recognize their constitutional obligation to protect all children in K-12 public schools. We call upon the Department of Homeland Security to affirm publicly that agents seeking students in public school is inappropriate enforcement activity.”