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Baltimore school officials try to reassure Latino parents that school system does not support illegal immigrant raids

Baltimore City school officials are notifying parents of students that the school system has called on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security not to raid schools during their ongoing raids and roundups of illegal immigrants around the country.

A letter being sent to parents attempts to reassure undocumented parents and students who fear they could become targets of immigration raids. It asks that homeland security officials "ensure that the raids or other enforcement activities do not take place within our schools or on school grounds, where they would inevitably cause fear and anxiety."

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School administrators said the letter was a proactive measure to let the immigrant community know the district's position and "that our stance on this issue is in keeping with the Mayor and other school districts across the state."

Homeland Security announced shortly before Christmas that it would be picking up undocumented mothers and children who arrived recently and have a standing deportation order issued against them.

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Although rumors and fear have swirled throughout the Hispanic community, no raids have been substantiated in Maryland.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has had a policy for several years that it will not go into schools or other buildings it considers sensitive spaces, such as hospitals and churches, to pick people up, according to Liz Keyes, director of the immigrant rights clinic at the University of Baltimore. The only exceptions are in the case of a terrorist attack or if agents were pursuing a person who had just committed a violent act.

Many people in the Latino community, she said, are frightened when they have no reason to be. ICE is concentrating on a limited number of individuals in the undocumented community, she said.

"People who have already appeared before a judge and the judge has ordered them deported and they arrived after January 1, 2014" are those who they are looking for. While no raids have been confirmed in Maryland, she said, in other states ICE has gone to homes looking for people.

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"People should feel very confident sending their kids to school," Keyes said.

The school system's letter says it wants to encourage parents to send their children to school, where they will receive "compassion and support."

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