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Lorain Schools parent, her daughter deported to Central America

LORAIN — A Lorain Schools parent and her daughter were detained by the U.S. Border Patrol last week.

According to a news release from the district, the child's mother was arrested by U.S. Border Patrol officers for violation of an immigration order. Her child was enrolled in elementary school in Lorain Schools at the time of her arrest.

Safety Coordinator Reuben Figueroa confirmed the child was enrolled at Washington Elementary.

School Board President Mark Ballard confirmed the pair have been deported.

"There have been deportations in Lorain, but that the agents walked the parent to the schools, that's the first time we have ever heard that happen in Lorain," El Centro de Servicios Sociales Executive Director Victor Leandry said. "Or in hardly any place."

The mother picked up and withdrew her child from the building Feb. 24, Figueroa confirmed. She was accompanied by two plain-clothes Border Patrol agents who supplied identification to the principal, according to the release.

The principal followed school policy and notified staff at the district administration building. The student was taken out of class by a teacher and left the school building with her mother. Border Patrol agents did not enter the classroom or conduct any kind of search, and no uniformed personnel ever were in the building.

The mother and child left without incident. The district did not assist or participate in any investigation or arrest, it states.

Board policy is no federal agents will be allowed to enter school buildings for any purpose unless an administrator from the central office and head of safety for the district are present, according to the release. Going forward, it also will be policy that if the parent or student does not speak English, a bilingual staff member will be on hand to make sure that person is fully aware of their rights and what proceedings are taking place.

Where possible, the district also will ask Lorain police to be present to confirm federal authorities have the proper credential and paperwork to remove a student. And, except in an emergency, federal officials will be asked to remain outside school buildings and at no time will uniformed agents be allowed to search any school facility, according to the release.

Leandry said El Centro and others can't interfere with agents who have the proper documents or warrants, and couldn't have stopped that family being deported.

"However, for kids it's a little bit different and (at) schools it's a little bit different and there's policies and procedures that the school can put together to protect kids," Leandry said. "Especially when we don't know all the details of cases."

When a student is attending school, the district has custody of that child and is responsible for his or her safety and only a parent or authorized guardian will be allowed to remove a child from the district's custody, district officials said.

"At no time did any representative of the District assist or participate in any investigation or arrest — the District merely allowed a parent to take a child out of school for a family matter," the release states.

Since Friday, Leandry met with school CEO Greg Ring, members of the school board and Police Chief Jim McCann to discuss how the community handles immigration issues.

He said the incident is a "lesson learned," and highlighted some of the communication issues present.

For the community, he said its had a devastating effect on their mental health — many are thinking about their family members who are undocumented and are scared, he said.

"We have parents that are very concerned about safety for their kids and themselves," Leandry said. "We want to really work with the schools and look at protocols so that families understand that schools in Lorain are safe places and we hope that a situation like this doesn't happen ever again. And if it happens, that we have all the protocols in place to really try to do our best communicating with Lorain Police Department, with the school administration, with El Centro in regards to our expertise for dealing with families and that everybody's communicating and that there's a protocol that provides families a little bit of relief."

For more information, contact Reuben Figueroa at (440) 830-4016. He will be available at the Lorain Ohio Immigrants Rights Association meeting 7 p.m. Wednesday at Sacred Heart Chapel. He is fluent in Spanish.