ICE responds to KC district’s policy prohibiting immigration enforcement at schools

In response to a new policy adopted this week by Kansas City Public Schools, Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Friday that the agency has rules on how it will handle inquiries at sensitive locations, such as schools.

Kansas City school board members on Wednesday approved a Welcoming Schools policy that includes prohibiting ICE agents from being on school properties or school buses without a warrant.

“ICE’s policies preclude law enforcement operations or actions at sensitive locations such as schools, churches” and other locations, said Shawn Neudauer, spokesman for ICE in Missouri and Kansas.

According to the Department of Homeland Security website, the ICE and Customs and Border Protection sensitive locations policies, which remain in effect, “provide 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.”

In February, when asked about reported fear that ICE agents were conducting random roundups of undocumented immigrants, Neudauer, who was not available for a telephone conversation Friday afternoon, told The Star that federal officials have not made fundamental changes in enforcement actions. Those officials have denied stopping people randomly at checkpoints or conducting “sweeps” of locations where undocumented immigrants are common.

“All our enforcement activities are conducted with the same high level of professionalism that ICE officers exhibit every day,” Neudauer said last month.

The Kansas City Public Schools policy says the district’s school board finds that federal immigration investigations and law enforcement activity at district schools or on buses “significantly disrupt the school environment, interrupt learning, impede the safety and security of the school environment, and infringe on students’ rights to free access to public education.”

School principals and teachers “have been trained to call our legal office if ICE shows up without a warrant, and we go from there,” said Natalie Allen, a district spokeswoman.

The district policy mandates zero tolerance for discrimination by students, teachers or staff against a child or parent “due to a known or conceived belief that the individual is undocumented.”

In addition, the policy states that school officials will not collect any information regarding a student’s immigration status.

“By passing this resolution, we let our community know that our schools are safe and welcoming spaces for all students,” Allen said. “It was important for us to assure families that KCPS is a safe haven for them, no matter what their legal status.”

Mará Rose Williams: 816-234-4419, @marawilliamskc