Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, who chairs the House Education and Labor Workforce Protections Subcommittee, gaveled a hearing today on the impact of Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) raids on children and local communities.
Among those testifying was Kathryn Gibney, principal of San Pedro Elementary School in San Rafael, who spoke about immigration raids in the San Rafael’s Canal District in March 2007.
“Traumatized by the vicious nature of the intrusions and terrified to take their children to the bus stop, many families held their children at home, in hiding,” Gibney said, describing the raids. “Other parents, recognizing that school might be the safest place, enabled their children to go to school. One child whose father had just been taken away was told by her mother to pack some essentials in her backpack and leave it by the door so that if, when she returned home she found no one there, she could go to her aunt’s home just in case her mother was seized and deported. Imagine this child’s frame of mind as she left for school that day.”
“The impact of these raids has been devastating. Absentee rates have soared. Test scores have dropped. Students who do make it to school remain distracted as they worry about whether their families will be at home when they return. Families lose sleep at night as they worry about possible home interrogations. Families whose breadwinners have been seized are struggling to survive.”
Woolsey during the hearing blasted ICE for not enforcing voluntary guidelines calling for its officials to coordinate with local social service groups when raids are conducted of more than 150 immigrants. “Even though ICE put into place guidelines to ensure the humane treatment of people being detained when conducting raids, they are not being followed in a consistent fashion,” Woolsey said. “As a result, we are still hearing heartbreaking stories of the impact on children. Unless ICE follows humanitarian procedures in conducting these raids, we are still left with traumatized children and communities.”
“The testimony that we heard today, and the stories that many of us have heard from our constituents who have been affected by these raids, was heartbreaking, and often times difficult to hear,” Woolsey said at a press conference afterward. “We all recognize the need for a broader immigration policy. All that we’re asking for is that these enforcement activities are handled with care and that the needs of the most vulnerable among us, our children, be taken into account.”