Sunday 18 March 2018

Immigration officer turned away from school after he went to question boy (9) as part of Trump crackdown

Customs officers have been stepping up operations across the country Photo: PA
Customs officers have been stepping up operations across the country Photo: PA

Andrew Buncombe

An immigration agent pursuing a crackdown ordered by Donald Trump, went to a New York primary school to try and question a pupil, but was turned away at the door.

Eric Phillips, a spokesman for New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, confirmed that an officer from US Citizenship and Immigration Services had gone to the school in the borough of Queens, but was blocked from entering because they did not have a warrant.

Reports said the pupil the officer was seeking, was in the fourth grade, and would have been aged nine.

Mr De Blasio announced a policy earlier this year to prevent such incidents happening and told the New York Police Department not to allow customs agents onto school grounds unless they had a warrant.

"All students, regardless of immigration status, are welcome in NYC public schools, and parents should rest assured that we will do everything on our power to protect students, staff and families,” said Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña.

"We’re looking into this incident and are providing schools with additional information on our protocol and more trainings."

The borough president of Queens, Melinda Katz, wrote on Facebook about her disgust with what had happened at the school, PS 58, in the Maspeth neighbourhood.

"As a mother, I am deeply troubled and horrified at this attempt on the part of federal immigration agents to reach any child in our schools,” she said.

"PS 58 officials did the right thing by following proper protocols of the city administration, stopping the agents at the door and protecting their students."

In March, Mr de Blasio said he was taking steps to stop such incidents from happening. He did so following reports that customs officials, seeking to enforce Mr Trump’s immigration crackdown, were showing up at courts, homeless shelters and places of work to arrest and detain people they were seeking to deport.

"We’re not allowing (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) agents in the building, because I think parents are so afraid right now, and are worried that an agent could literally come into a building and single out their child, we want them to know that can’t happen under this policy," said Mr de Blasio.

The city’s Immigration Affairs commissioner is investigating the incident in Queens.

In a statement sent to CBS, a US Citizenship and Immigration Services spokesperson denied its officers were seeking to detain the pupil.

"While I cannot discuss the details of the case, I can confirm that two USCIS officials visited an elementary school in Maspeth, Queens as part of an administrative inquiry pertaining to an immigration benefit request."

The spokesperson added: "Although school visits are not routine in these circumstances, they are not unprecedented. I must emphasise that the purpose of the visit was to verify certain facts about the student’s enrollment in relation to a request for an immigration benefit. At no time did the officers ask to see or speak with the student, who was not the subject of the administrative inquiry.”

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