A visit to a New York City elementary school by federal agents looking for a fourth-grader sparked an outcry from city education leaders and teachers union officials amid fears the agents were there to enforce U.S. immigration laws. But the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said late Monday afternoon that the visit was not an enforcement action.
Fear of potential immigration enforcement has spurred districts across the nation, including in New York City, to issue resolutions pledging to prevent federal agents from entering schools without a warrant.
At a press conference Monday morning at the school, P.S. 58 in Maspeth, Queens, Chancellor Carmen Fariña said the agents were barred from the school because they didn’t bring a warrant, so they “never got past the front desk.”
“The family has been informed, and we do not believe this was an immigration issue per se,”
Late Monday afternoon, Homeland Security denied that the agents had been barred from the school and said the plainclothes officers were there to try to verify a request for immigration benefits.
“They spoke to school administrators and left at the conclusion of the conversation,” according to a statement the federal agency posted on Twitter. “They were not barred from the property nor asked to leave.”
Meanwhile, on Twitter, a spokesman said Mayor Bill de Blasio would meet with Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly to discuss the incident.
The incident comes two months after city officials released an updated policy on what should happen if immigration authorities visit a public school. That policy
, released in March as a wave of districts across the country
adopted “sanctuary school” resolutions to protect immigrant students, said staff should not grant federal immigration agents access to public school buildings without a warrant.
Also Monday afternoon, during a panel discussion at United Federation of Teachers headquarters in Lower Manhattan, union President Michael Mulgrew said he tried to get the exact story about what happened at the school, but “we’ll never know if the actual facts ever get out.”
“Since last November, this has been a major issue for all of the educators in New York City. We are very proud of the diversity of our school system,” he said. “The fact that we are dealing with this situation at this point in time is surreal to us.”