NEW YORK (FOX 5 NY) - Federal immigration officers showed up at P.S. 58 in Maspeth, Queens, on Thursday to question a fourth-grade student. A school administrator turned the officials away. But the U.S. Homeland Security Department is correcting a misconception about who actually came to the school.
New York City's Department of Education notified principals citywide of new protocols that before any federal authorities can be allowed on school grounds, department lawyers must be notified. But DOE is still investigating what actually happened at P.S. 58 last week.
With tensions and fears of deportation high in the city's immigrant neighborhoods, the visit by two unarmed U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officers to the school in search of a student sent shockwaves through the community. Parents told Fox 5 that they are very concerned.
Some accounts referred to agents of ICE, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the immigration law enforcement arm of Homeland Security. But an ICE spokesperson told Fox 5: "Despite reports to the contrary, the officials at the school were not from ICE." ICE said that federal agents with ICE or Customs and Border Protection try to avoid conducting enforcement operations at "sensitive locations," such as schools, hospitals, places of worship, and more.
In fact, a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services spokesperson said: "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. Although school visits are not routine in these circumstances, they are not unprecedented."
The USCIS officers were not allowed past the school's front desk.
Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña said the DOE is investigating. She told the Daily News, "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,"
Earlier this year, the de Blasio administration ordered city school administrators to bar Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents from entering a school without a warrant.
The Trump administration has vowed to crack down on illegal immigration across the country.
As to why the officers were at the elementary school in the first place, USCIS investigates applications for green cards and citizenship to verify if marriages are legal, and dependents actually exist.