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Virginia governor's office issues guidance to schools on immigration enforcement

Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe's administration issued a guidance to Virginia schools this week no how to handle potential probes by federal immigration officials (AP Photo/Charles Reed)

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe's (D) administration issued a guidance to the state's public schools this week regarding how to respond to potential probes by federal immigration officials.

The guidance released from state Superintendent of Public Instruction Steven. R. Staples was shared with schools Tuesday and made public Wednesday. It advises schools not to reveal students' immigration statuses and to make plans should a student's caretaker be deported or detained.

Staples told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that the state's education department is not aware of an instance in which a students' caretaker has been deported. But according to McAuliffe, the guidance is a result of "fear and uncertainty in many ... communities."

"President [Donald] Trump's unprecedented modifications to long-standing immigration policies have led to fear and uncertainty in many of our communities," McAuliffe said, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

"So let me be clear: the commonwealth will continue to be a welcoming place for all students and families, and my administration remains committed to honoring our constitutional obligation to provide each and every pupil with a free and high-quality public education, regardless of immigration status," he said.

The memo mentions that immigration officials generally do not seek out information from educators, but should that change, it's the school's responsibility to maintain "a safe learning environment."

The memo reads:

Historically immigration officials have not come to school seeking information about students and their parents who may be undocumented.  Should ICE deviate from this long-standing policy, current school policies remain applicable when local school division employees interact with immigration officials.  It is also important to recognize that schools are obligated to maintain a safe learning environment; thus any action that could deter families from sending their children to school may be a constitutional violation.

The guidance also reminds schools that federal law prohibits districts "from engaging in harboring persons who are undocumented."

"That means that local school divisions may not engage in conduct that substantially facilitates the person to remain in the United States without authorization," the memo states.

However, according to the memo, schools are legally allowed to provide educational opportunities to students regardless of immigration status and provide general information to families regarding their legal rights.

"Guidance is more helpful before anything happens than after," Staples told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. "We really sat down and tried to give both legal and practical advice."

According to the Times, a spokesperson for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said the agency did not plan to go back on its policy against conducting enforcement actions at schools.

"The ICE sensitive locations policy, which remains in effect, provides that enforcement actions at sensitive locations should generally be avoided, and require either prior approval from an appropriate supervisory official or exigent circumstances necessitating immediate action," the spokesperson said.

Trump recently indicated that he will not eliminate the Obama administration's directive that protects young people who are not in the country legally, known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — or DACA.

"To me, it's one of the most difficult subjects I have because you have these incredible kids in many cases, not in all cases … but you have some absolutely incredible kids, I would say mostly, that were brought here in such a way — it's a very, very tough subject," Trump reportedly said last month.

One last thing…
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