With the federal government ramping up efforts to crack down on illegal immigration, the Michigan Department of Education and the Michigan Department of Civil Rights issued a letter to school leaders that details students’ rights under Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act.

The letter from State Superintendent Brian Whiston and Department of Civil Rights Director Agustin Arbulu states, in part:

As a principal or school administrator, we urge you to take the following preemptive actions to prevent, or at least minimize, any disruptions immigration enforcement efforts might cause to your schools, your students and their families:

  • Seek legal advice and ensure that your legal counsel is well prepared to quickly evaluate and advise you on your obligation to cooperate or comply with any request for information, assistance, or cooperation from agencies of the Department of Homeland Security, especially where you feel an immediate demand is being made.
  • Educate yourself and your staff in all buildings about Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Sensitive Community Locations policy and be prepared to ask relevant questions about compliance with the policy in the event of any enforcement activity.
  • Seek information and ascertain the degree to which your local law enforcement agencies are cooperating with the Department of Homeland Security, ICE, or Border Patrol in your community. Understanding whether or not local law enforcement intends to act on behalf of immigration agents in or near your school could help you plan accordingly.
  • Engage local law enforcement to share your perspective about the way that their collaboration with immigration officials might jeopardize your district’s mission and relationship with local law enforcement.
  • Engage local leaders to ensure that your school is a physically and psychologically safe environment for all children, regardless of their immigration status.
  • Educate your staff and your broader community about your obligations under Plyler v Doe and the ways in which you will ensure full compliance.
  • Communicate clearly with immigrant communities in your school district about the priority you place on student and family access to education and safety at school.
  • Share educational resources with families in your district that enhance family emergency preparedness, in the event of an abrupt separation of a family unit, including a list of available resources with expertise in the applicable laws. Under no circumstances provide students or families with any legal advice.
  • Monitor your attendance data when immigration enforcement activity takes place in your community and ensure that students in your district have expanded access to counseling services if enforcement activity is taking place.
  • Contact the Michigan Department of Civil Rights and ask to speak to one of the managers of the Community Outreach Division to learn more about the ELCRA or assist with your training needs for staff, parent, and community audiences.

The full letter that was issued on Friday, March 31, can be viewed here.