Schools within the Los Angeles Unified School District have been declared to be "no ICE" zones, meaning federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents cannot go onto a campus without the permission of the district.
Instituted by the school board, the new regulations say staff members should not allow any ICE agents onto district campuses for any reason, saying that these campuses are now considered to be safe zones for students and their families. This includes evaluation of exchange or non-immigrant students. In order for these agents to come onto school grounds they must first be cleared by the Superintendent of School and LAUSD lawyers.
Board members say the new policy was put into place as a result of the Obama administration's change in enforcement policy, saying that it "has created a climate of heightened fear and anxiety for many district students and their families."
"Today, we reaffirm that every L.A. Unified school is safe for every student and every family," the statement said. "The vitriol and hate that presently permeates the immigration debate, combined with a regrettable change in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement practices, made it necessary for the Board of Education to take a strong stand in solidarity with our families and our communities," said LAUSD Board President Steve Zimmer in a statement.
The new policy also requires schools to offer information and assistance to those families who may be facing deportation through an increase in alliances made with community organizations and legal services. Doing so would create a "response network" for children who may have a relative facing deportation by immigration authorities.
Although ICE said they do not enter schools specifically to look for students, parents are still afraid to send their children to school after hearing about ICE agents holding raids across the country last month looking for Central American immigrants. Close to 50% of the student population is Hispanic.
ICE spokesman for the Western District Virginia Kice said schools and churches are considered to be "sensitive" sites, and no raids or detentions are conducted on any of those sites.
Despite this, attendance at Riverside High School in Durham, North Carolina has dropped by 20% following an immigration raid on the campus that resulted in the arrest of senior Wildin Acosta, who arrived in the United States in 2014 from Honduras. He is currently in the custody of officials with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, reports Mario Boone for WNCN.
According to family members, Acosta had been on his way to school when he was taken into custody by ICE agents.
A spokesman for ICE said that the student remains in custody after a final removal order from an immigration judge. He could not give any more information specifically pertaining to Acosta's case due to privacy laws.
Recent raids have been the subject of criticism by advocates and House Democrats who argue they are unfairly targeting Central American women and children, with Representatives saying they should hold refugee status after leaving violent circumstances in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. A resolution is also pushing for Congress to immediately put immigration reform into place.