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Chicago public schools pledge to keep ICE agents out

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Chicago Public Schools officials — barring a criminal warrant — are vowing to deny federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents access to district buildings and personnel as a way to protect illegal immigrant students.

"To be very clear, CPS does not provide assistance to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in the enforcement of federal civil immigration law," a CPS memo reads. "Therefore, ICE should not be permitted access to CPS facilities or personnel except in the rare instance in which we are provided with a criminal warrant."

CPS officials released the memo earlier this week after principals "expressed concern and anxiety," according to CNN, over immigration issues and dealing with ICE encounters.

This directive follows President Donald Trump's signing of an immigration-related executive order in late January, which called for the removal of people in the U.S. illegally who "have been convicted of any criminal offense," "have been charged with any criminal offense," "have committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense" or "are subject to a final order of removal."

On Tuesday, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, in an effort to implement the president's increased focus on illegal immigration, ordered the hiring of 5,000 additional Border Patrol agents along with 10,000 new ICE officials.

Kelly also called for the end of so-called "catch-and-release" policies that allow illegal immigrants to remain in the U.S. freely as they await hearings on their legal status in the future.

However, while the federal government is cracking down on illegal entry into the country, Chicago Chief Education Officer Janice Jackson is promising to push back.

"While many of our families have serious concerns and anxiety about recent federal actions and statements, we want to make sure that parents know school is a safe place for all students regardless of their race, ethnicity or country of origin," Jackson wrote to principals, adding, "We firmly believe that the safest and most beneficial place for students is a classroom alongside their fellow students."

Along with the memo, the CPS sent a packages to principals that include multilingual information on immigration law and rights for students and their families, CNN reported.

Principals are asked in the directive to call the school system's law department if "ICE agents arrive at a school and present paperwork."

"ICE agents should wait outside while the school is reviewing the matter with the Law Department," the memo reads, further noting that principals should not share student records with ICE "with the rare exception where there is a court order or consent from the parent/guardian."

"If a child is left stranded at your school and you suspect it is because his or her parent is detained, please exhaust the child's emergency contact list," the directive continues. "Please have a staff member remain with the student until the parent, guardian, or emergency contact can arrive."

Other school districts have implemented similar policies. For example, Colorado's Denver Public Schools last week passed a resolution saying the school board's general counsel "will not grant access to our students unless the official presents a valid search warrant issued by a federal or state judge or magistrate," according to CNN.

DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg wrote in a memo on the school system's website that DPS officials will "do everything in our lawful power to protect our students' confidential information and ensure that our students' learning environments are not disrupted by immigration enforcement activity."

And school officials in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, passed a resolution last month requiring that all ICE requests "must be processed through the Law Department and the Office of the Superintendent."

"Schools will not permit ICE officials to access any students, without having contacted the Law Department with all relevant documentation," public schools spokeswoman Ebony Pugh said.

According to 2014 data from the Pew Research Center, 725,000 students enrolled in K-12 in the U.S. — or 1.3 percent — were illegal immigrants. Approximately 3.9 million students are the children of illegal immigrants.

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