Why Are Boston Public Schools Students Being Arrested by ICE?

Education, Police Accountability, Racial Justice

Why Are Boston Public Schools Students Being Arrested by ICE?

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice calls on the City of Boston to immediately investigate the growing school-to-deportation pipeline entangling Boston Public Schools’ (BPS) students with federal immigration authorities.

On the heels of a widely-reported incident where BPS officers improperly referred a student to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), another BPS student was arrested last week by ICE following a school-based incident.

Last Wednesday, the Boston Police Department (BPD) was contacted after a student was alleged to have threatened to “shoot up” East Boston High School. Given the potential severity of the threat, BPD arrested the student.  The judge assigned to the matter released the student on bail to return to court for further proceedings this week.  However, ICE arrested the student at his home the next day.

We do not question BPD’s involvement after the student was alleged to have made the threats. Nor do we question the court’s decision to release the student on bail. These facts demonstrate that our local law enforcement and courts were actively addressing this matter.  However, we seriously question how another immigrant student from East Boston High School ended up in ICE custody for something that happened in school.

After the Columbine school shooting, the U.S. Department of Education and other federal authorities determined that the best way to stop school shootings was to encourage trust between students and school leaders.  With trust, students are more willing to come forward at the first whispers of such threats, and adults can respond preventatively.  ICE’s arrest of this young man may chill that trust, and will likely make students – and their parents – think about deportation risks and immigration consequences before reporting such concerns to school leaders.  This does not make our schools safer; it makes them less safe.  We call on the City of Boston to immediately investigate the process that allowed ICE to interfere with a matter that was being addressed by local law enforcement and courts. We should be relying on our own institutions to hold our students accountable.