Parents concerned over ICE raids

May 7, 2008 6:53:55 PM PDT
In the East Bay, the panic is easing over a rumor that gripped some schools and parents who believed that immigration agents would raid school campuses and take children. Local police were even called to keep the agents away.

Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums tried to calm fears fueled by false rumors that immigration agents were raiding schools and taking children.

Oakland police were patrolling the elementary school to calm community members who were startled by the presence of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) vans in the area. ICE agents said they were not targeting schools, after rumors took on a life of their own.

From what we're told, the rumors started from one panicked phone call by one person who saw an arrest go down. Immigrations officials called the reports erroneous saying that whatever people thought they saw was just a routine arrest of a fugitive.

It's an implied compact that when a parent takes a child to school, their kid will still be there at the end of the day. But in the East Bay, rumors, not facts, have shaken that confidence for undocumented immigrants.

"I tell them the law for this country, sometimes we do not understand," said Maria Lopez, mother.

In the past week, ICE agents have cracked down on undocumented workers. They took 63 of them from a Bay Area restaurant chain on Friday, alone.

Then, a false rumor began that the agents were surrounding local schools, including Stonebridge Elementary in Oakland and Berkeley High.

"People saw things that weren't happening. People saw ICE vehicles all around town. People talked about records being looked at in school sites. None of that happened," says Mark Copan of the Berkeley Unified School District.

But the rumors still spread, with parents afraid for the children and afraid of being picked up. So much so, that Amelia Campos came to pick up a child for a friend.

"And (her) mom is scared to come and get her later, in case somebody is here and thee are going to take her away because she is not legal, you know?"

Last weeks raids and this week's rumors have provided an opportunity for immigrant rights groups, who protested loudly and forcefully Wednesday.

"This is not an over-reaction or hysteria by immigrant communities. We are responding to a real fear and discrimination that we face every day," says Yvette Felarca who represents By Any Means Necessary.

It's a real fear, fed by rumors, which kept kids out of school and away from the lessons in books.

We are told by school officials that most classes were filled on Wednesday. In case you are wondering, federal law does not allow ICE to take children from campuses. In fact, most schools make it their business not to know which children are, or are not documented. At Stonebridge Elementary, we asked the school principal how many undocumented children. He said he had and he honestly did not know.


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