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School Turns Away Immigration Officials Looking for 4th Grader, DOE Says

By Katie Honan | May 15, 2017 9:03am | Updated on May 15, 2017 10:44am

MASPETH — Two immigration officers tried to enter a Queens elementary school Thursday but were turned away by education officials, they said.

The officers, who were from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, visited P.S. 58 in Maspeth on Thursday as part of an investigation, according to a spokeswoman from the Department of Education and the USCIS.

The pair visited the school on Grand Avenue for an "administrative inquiry pertaining to an immigration benefit request," USCIS spokeswoman Katie Tichacek confirmed in an email.

However, they did not ask to speak with the student, who is not the subject of the query, Tichacek said.

"Although school visits are not routine in these circumstances, they are not unprecedented," she added.

"I must emphasize that the purpose of the visit was to verify certain facts about the student's enrollment in relation to a request for an immigration benefit."

Still, the incident is now being investigated by the DOE — which reminded students that schools are safe and welcoming to everyone, regardless of their immigration status. 

On Monday morning, Chancellor Carmen Fariña and Nisha Agarwal, the commissioner of the Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs, greeted parents and students as they arrived at school.

"We're here today to really reassure parents that our schools are safe, and our children will be protected to the utmost degree," the chancellor said.

Parents at P.S. 58, and across the city, were being reminded that "schools are a safe place to be," she added.

The visit from the USCIS officer was the first time the city's protocols have been put to the test since Mayor Bill de Blasio and Fariña assured the public that they would defend immigrant students and adults in public places such as schools and workplaces, Agarwal said.

But the attempt to question a student at school still shook parents, who questioned why any immigration official would come to an elementary school.

One mother, who has three kids at the school but asked that her name not be used, said adults should never approach children without their parents present.

"Let immigration deal with the parents," the mom said. "The oldest kid here is 12 years old, what do they know? That's really scary."