PORTLAND, Ore. (Portland Tribune) — School officials in the Tigard-Tualatin School District say they’re reaching out to legislators after the father of two students was arrested by federal immigration agents at a school bus stop last week.
“Two of our students…their (parent) walked them to the school bus, the kids got on the school bus and ICE came and arrested the parent,” TTSD School Board chair Maureen Wolf said Monday, Feb. 24, during the district’s school board meeting. “Washington County is the hot spot right now for this.”
ICE — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement — has made headlines in Washington County over the last few years after a series of controversial arrests of people believed to be living in the country illegally. Agents with the federal agency have previously focused on the Washington County courthouse in Hillsboro before a 2019 Supreme Court order stopped the practice without a judge’s warrant.
The school district declined to note which school the students attended, but noted they were dropped off at a bus stop last Wednesday, Feb. 19. The students have been connected with wrap-around services and a Latino network, to ensure safe housing and basic needs are met, Superintendent Sue Rieke-Smith said.
“They wrap themselves around the family in the event of deportation,” Rieke-Smith said. “We have partners who will step in. The problem is most of those partners are stretched thin.”
School districts are required by federal law to serve all students, regardless of immigration status.
Tigard-Tualatin school board members passed a resolution in 2017 declaring themselves a safe place for students. The district provides training and guidance to teachers and administrators on how to respond to federal immigration laws.
Board member Ben Bowman asked for the resolution to be expanded, to condemn the actions of ICE.
“It’s bad for students. These children are en route to our care and they’re being inflicted with trauma by their government,” Bowman said. “How many students are going to wonder if Mom or Dad are going to be there when they get home? It’s incredibly counterproductive for the federal government to be taking actions that are going to make students question their own safety and well-being, particularly when they’re in our care.”
Last week, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office announced it would comply with federal subpoenas from ICE for information about two men in jail custody that immigration officials are trying to deport.
Rieke-Smith, superintendent of Tigard-Tualatin schools, said she and other district officials are reaching out to Oregon lawmakers to ask about legislation that would prevent federal immigration enforcement officers from using school bus stops for arrests.
Schools are already considered sensitive locations that ICE agents avoid.
Rieke-Smith said TTSD is asking that “bus stops, which are an extension of our district, be designated as safe zones, as well as off-limits.”
U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Oregon), is already working to get legislation passed to do just that. HR 1011, the Protecting Sensitive Locations Act, proposes to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to limit immigration enforcement actions at sensitive locations, including school buses and school bus stops when children are present.
“Targeting arrests where children gather is deeply concerning and does not make our communities safer; it only terrifies kids who must now worry about their parents instead of focusing on school,” Bonamici said Tuesday. “Parents shouldn’t have to live in fear of being arrested by ICE while trying to make sure their children safely travel to school. I have long advocated for Congress to pass my Protecting Sensitive Locations Act, which prohibits ICE activity at sensitive locations including bus stops, as well as schools, courthouses, places of worship, and other important places where our community gathers.”