Tuesday evening, the CMS Board of Education wasted no time addressing rumors or immigration raids being carried out near a Charlotte school. The board said they’ll always comply with federal law, but admit some students and teachers have felt anxious recently.
Multiple teachers and volunteers thanked the board for the statement during the public comment portion of the meeting.
“Our students are being hunted. This is not just a concern or anxiety, they feel hunted,” one teacher said.
Another CMS teacher described the cloud of concern hanging over his classroom.
“In the last month I’ve heard the level of fear on part of many of my students increase, have seen it in their writing as they react to changes in immigration policy,” he said.
CMS sent the following statement:
“Charlotte Mecklenburg schools strives to provide all students the best education available anywhere, preparing every child to lead a rich and productive life. Academic achievement is strongest when students are safe and secure.
While CMS works to support students in our care, events outside of the school house affect children's lives too.
Recently, we became aware of immigration enforcement actions that were being conducted in the neighborhood surrounding one of our schools. While these actions did not take place on CMS property, they have caused heightened anxiety in the community. These actions have combined with social media rumors to cause real concern among CMS students, families, and staff.
We want to clearly state that CMS will comply with all federal and state laws. By law, we educate every child who comes through our doors. US Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials have assured our district leadership that schools and bus stops are at this point considered to be safe from any immigration law enforcement activity involving our students. (We have) no ability to control or direct the work of any law-enforcement agency. We will continue to do everything in our power to support students. We think all of our community partners for collaborating in this mission.”
Jose Hernandez-Peris with the Latin American Coalition applauded the stance, but wants to see more from CMS.
“I think there is also a sense of disappointment that the statement didn’t include any action items,” he said.
Counseling and safe zones were some of the suggestions made to the board to combat what some have called "raids" on Charlotte’s Hispanic community.
“It sends a message and that message is enough to paralyze community,” Hernandez-Peris said.
But ICE continues to say raids are not happening in Charlotte and that last week’s arrest that was carried out 2.5 miles from Berryhill Elementary was of a convicted felon. They released the following statement to WBTV:
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) took Pedro Flores-Valdivia, an unlawfully present Mexican national, into ICE custody Feb. 9, near his residence in Charlotte, N.C. Mr. Flores-Valdivia is an ICE priority due to an August 1994 felony conviction for forgery and five separate convictions for DUI. He is also a priority due to a final order of removal issued by a federal immigration judge in July 2014.
Some activists don’t buy it.
“It’s a raid. It may be not a massive raid. It may not be a street or road block, but it is a raid,” Hernandez-Peris said.
ICE added they have not here made any arrests at Charlotte-area schools and don’t typically make arrests on school property unless there is a an urgent circumstance.