COLLEGE PARK, Md. - There is a disturbing trend in Prince George’s County schools that has officials there concerned. At issue is dropping attendance among Latino students that is fueled by fears over possible deportation raids by the federal government.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) launched a new effort in 2016 to step up deportation efforts against people who have broken the law and entered the country illegally. News of these deportation raids are spreading.
According to a letter from Prince George’s County Public Schools CEO Dr. Kevin Maxwell, principals are reporting a drop off in attendance by Latino students.
School administrators believe unfounded rumors are leading students with questionable legal status of being in the United States fearing they could be detained or deported just by attending school.
“We have seen a decrease in attendance at some of our schools,” said Prince George’s County Public Schools spokesperson Sherrie Johnson. “It's not widespread, but we have seen somewhat of a decrease at some of our schools. It's important to note that we want all students to come to school and we understand it's a very difficult time. This is a scary time.”
In Montgomery County, Executive Isiah Leggett and the county council issued a letter saying the county and its law enforcement won't take part in helping the federal government deport illegal immigrants.
The letter was somewhat surprising to county police as they told us they never were involved in deportation efforts and their long-established policy is to interview crime victims and witnesses without inquiring about immigration status.
Leggett said the political leaders in Montgomery County wanted to send a message to illegal immigrants to not live in fear of the county government.
“Montgomery County does not support the policy of the federal government that this is a real concern nationally,” said Leggett. “But locally, we're not going to enforce ICE's mandates and we would hope that people understand that.”
“The policy now is what it has been for years -- we are not involving ourselves in immigration enforcement and those types of activities -- and we will not be changing this," “said Montgomery County Police Capt. Paul Starks.
ICE deported 235,000 illegal immigrants in 2015. Of those people, 59 percent of them had criminal records. That information comes out just days before three illegal immigrants in Loudoun County in Virginia were charged in the murder of a 17-year-old high school student on Saturday.