Buses full of the children with undocumented parents watched in horror as ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) rousted illegal immigrants. The kids were frightened to death as ICE swooped into their neighborhood and swept up their mothers and fathers as Donald Trump promised.
In the middle of this horrible scene Thursday morning, rumors rolled around Berryhill Elementary School that ICE agents had come to the building as well. The agents carried out an operation near a primarily Hispanic elementary school in Charlotte, North Carolina. Of 674 children at the school, 431 are Hispanic. According to Que Pasa Mi Gente, the school children were so distressed that Principal Cara S. Heath drafted and sent a message home to each of the students’ parents. Her email message said:
‘Good afternoon Berryhill families, this is Principal Heath with an important message, you may have heard rumors that immigration officers were at our school today, I want to assure you that no such activity has occurred at our school… [However] As many of you have heard or seen this morning, Immigration is arresting illegal immigrants in this area…I know this is bothersome to the children as well as to all of you. Every staff and students observed how some immigrants were Taken on their routes to school this morning…’
This surge in arrests by ICE is widely believed to be associated with the new executive order of President Trump, and Trump’s campaign promises to remove illegal immigrants from America.
Various news outlets have reported a dramatic increase in arrests, and a lack of subtlety and tact by ICE agents. CNN reports that roughly 200 arrests were made in Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina this week. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) acknowledged that 37 illegal immigrants detained from California last week have already been deported. In a Huffington Post report, a United States attorney corroborated the surge, claiming that the number of arrests and scheduled deportations in the last week was “unprecedented.” It was further discussed how widespread the fears are among immigrant communities that Donald Trump’s “deportation force” was becoming a reality:
— Huffington Post (@HuffingtonPost) February 11, 2017
Officials for ICE and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are doing their best however to assert that the surge in detention is consistent with their past procedures and they were not acting on orders to discriminately target Hispanics. ICE spokesman for the North Carolina region Brian Cox released the following statement:
‘As part of routine law enforcement operations, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Fugitive Operations teams arrest foreign criminals and others who are in violation of Immigration of our nation. ICE does not conduct operations or raids directed at foreigners indiscriminately.’
He unfortunately neglected to offer any comment or apology for the trauma inflicted on the students, who had to bear witness to the apprehension of people in their neighbourhood.
Thankfully, Principal Heath and the administration of the elementary school are doing their best to support the students in the aftermath. Ms. Heath identified in her letter that the school would have counselors available to students to assist them at this difficult time and they would attempt to do anything they could:
‘We realize that reports of immigration operations are a very sensitive issue for our students and families in the school. Please note that we have counselors at the school to provide any emotional support that is needed at this time. Our school staff is also ready to continue to provide a supportive and caring environment for each student. Thank you for your support of Berryhill School. As always, please feel free to call me with any questions or concerns.’
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) continues to urge immigrants across the country who may be, have been targeted by ICE to contact on of their offices and for others who witness arrests to call the “MigraWatch” hotline. They further are publicizing various tips and other forms of assistance for dealing with ICE agents — primarily via their Twitter account:
— ACLU National (@ACLU) February 10, 2017
— United We Dream (@UNITEDWEDREAM) February 12, 2017
Featured Image: Getty Images/Jensen Walker.