Parents and community leaders were understandably upset last week upon finding out that agents from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)—and not Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as had originally been reported—had visited Maspeth’s PS 58 in search of a fourth-grade student.
The agents, who were turned away by school officials, had apparently been looking to confirm the enrollment of the student in relation to a request for an immigration benefit. At no point did the officers ask to see or speak with the student, a spokeswoman for USCIS said.
Elected officials representing the borough and city schools officials said that they were disturbed that federal agents visited a borough school and that the school made the right move by not allowing the agents into the school.
With the recent uptick in arrests by ICE in the borough and across the nation as well as the threats against sanctuary cities by President Donald Trump’s administration, a rise in hate crimes and an anti-immigrant fervor that has left Queens’ diverse population feeling uneasy, it isn’t surprising that USCIS’ visit to PS 58 might set off alarm bells.
However, this incident proves that everyone—despite justified uneasiness amid the current political climate—should take a deep breath. While it is extremely important that city school officials remain vigilant in protecting students from being approached by federal agents on school grounds, it is also important not to jump to conclusions without first having all of the facts.
We commend borough leaders and school officials for remaining steadfast in protecting students and ensuring that, as Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña said, “Schools are a safe place to be.” But this is one case, thankfully, where there was no need for alarm.