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Mesa parents, teachers worried about immigration officers on school grounds

(Charles Reed/U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement via AP)

MESA, Ariz. — Several teachers and parents in Mesa are concerned about a policy that allows immigration officers to be on school grounds.

The Mesa Unified School District sent a memo to school principals in February outlining how they should respond to requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers.

The memo states ICE officers can speak to students but only after the school has attempted to notify parents. There are a few exceptions to the parent-notice requirement, though those exceptions are not made clear.

At a governing board meeting this week, the Mesa public schools’ general counsel Tom Pickrell said principals were informed about a Department of Homeland Security memo released in 2011. The memo makes clear that schools are considered sensitive places where immigration enforcement should be limited.

Pickrell added that principals were also told they should contact him or the governing board if an ICE officer visits the school, so they can be advised on what to do.

“We’re going to make sure that the rights of students are respected and also that we’re doing it according to the procedures that we have for law enforcement,” he said.

Still, several teachers expressed concerns at the governing board meeting about allowing ICE agents to visit schools.

Jacquelyn Delgado, an elementary school teacher in Mesa, said the current Mesa Unified School District policy of allowing ICE officers to be on school grounds is creating fear among students and parents.

“We’re asking that the district implement the policy that prevents ICE officers from reaching our students under all circumstances, and that all staff is trained on a district-wide protocol that ensures students and families are protected no matter what,” Delgado said.

She and other teachers also encouraged the governing board to consider adopting a similar policy as the Phoenix Elementary School District, which bars ICE officers from entering school campuses.

A spokesperson for the Arizona Department of Education said school districts are “free to come up with their own policies as long as the district is abiding by the law.”

The concerns raised by parents and teachers drove the governing board to agree to revisit their existing memo that deals with school visits by ICE officers. They voted unanimously to look at ways to possibly strengthen and improve the memo.

They also voted to hold community meetings to inform parents about the current polices. The first of three meetings will take place April 24 at Kino Junior High.

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