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Monday, August 25, 2008

N. Texas district preps schools for immigration raids

Associated Press
Aug. 23, 2008

GARLAND — Garland school district officials are taking steps to ensure their students are not left without a legal guardian should their parents be deported in an immigration raid during school hours.

The Garland school district will ask all parents to provide the names and phone numbers of six emergency contacts. The district is also instructing school officials to not allow a student board a bus if a parent is detained or deported and no one else is available to take the child home, The Dallas Morning News reported Saturday.

The plan also forbids anyone not on the emergency contact list from withdrawing the student from school in the event of a raid, the paper reported.

"We don't anticipate large-scale raids here in our district because we don't really have the industry (known for hiring illegal immigrants) that suggests this sort of thing will happen here," said Shelly Hopkins, who oversees district programs for English learners. "But we do want to support principals (in cases) where the legal guardian has been detained and deported."

Carl Rusnok, a spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Dallas, said his agency repeatedly asks parents taken into custody whether or not they are the sole caregivers for children.

"If they are sole caregivers, a decision is made whether these people can be released or (are) going to have to be held," Rusnok said. "We go through extraordinary means to ensure children are not left home alone or left alone at school."

South Gate Elementary School Principal Clyde Schilling said parents of his students have been detained two times before.

"This is relatively new to a lot of school districts," Schilling said. "I don't think it's a topic of discussion at the lunch table, but as you imagine, it is very upsetting when it happens to any of your students."

The Urban Institute and National Council of La Raza issued a report last fall urging school districts to make sure students had a safe place to go in the event of a raid. The National Immigration Law Center also advised people last year to prepare a form or document authorizing another adult to care for their minor children in the event of a raid.

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