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Serving Immigrant Students

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August 1, 2017

I recently participated in a webinar for school attorneys on the topic of how we can better serve and protect our immigrant student population in light of policy changes under the current presidential administration. No matter your opinion on the politics, you are likely to agree that schools should be places for children of any ethnicity or citizenship status to feel safe and be best equipped to learn. Schools should also not have to have their operations unnecessarily disrupted by outside entities tasked with enforcing immigration laws.

Back in 2011, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released a memorandum to their agents and directors containing a statement of policy pertaining to enforcement actions at focused or sensitive locations. It stated the agency wished to ensure that arrests, interviews, searches and (for purposes of immigration enforcement only) surveillance do not occur at nor are focused on sensitive locations such as schools and churches unless there are exigent circumstances present, other law enforcement actions have led agents to a sensitive location or prior approval has been obtained. Below is a link to the memorandum.

ICE Sensitive Locations Memorandum

The policy is still in effect, and there has not yet been an administrative statement of intent to rescind it. However, schools throughout the nation are encouraged to be increasingly aware of the legal rights and responsibilities they have with respect to their immigrant students, and how to ensure those families can feel comfortable sending their children to school. In the coming months, we will take a look at some of the things schools can do to help.

About the Author

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Terri Thomas

Director of Legal Services

Terri Thomas serves as Director of Legal Services for OPSRC.  Ms. Thomas is an attorney practicing exclusively in the area of Oklahoma school law, with a primary focus on rural and smaller school districts. Prior to OPSRC, she served as legal counsel for the Organization of Rural Oklahoma Schools (OROS) from 1999 to 2015 and represents many school districts throughout all parts of the state.

It’s no accident that Terri wound up practicing school law.  She grew up in the school business. Terri’s father, the late Howard Thomas, was a school superintendent for 25 years in several Oklahoma school districts, including Pauls Valley—Terri’s hometown—and Ardmore. After graduating from Pauls Valley High School, Terri received her bachelor’s degree in Finance from Southern Methodist University and her Juris Doctor from the University of Oklahoma College of Law.

She and her husband, Norman Thompson, and their 8-year old daughter, Mary, reside in Oklahoma City.

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