ICE Agents in NC K-12 Schools?

HB744, the Safe Schools Act, will be heard in the NC Education Committee This Tuesday May 31st.

As explained by Michelle Lozano Villegas, Co-President of Duke Students for Humane Borders, “The bill looks to ban all undocumented students from K-12 schools in the state by giving Principals the authority to act like ICE Agents, by allowing them to question the status of their students.”

What impacts would this legislation have?

– Creating a class of young people with no education; according to Communities in Schools North Carolina, a single high school drop-out costs the state $275,00 in lost taxes and productivity, not to mention the increased likelihood of crime.    Would we ever consider completely eliminating education requirements and opportunities in juvenile detention centers or in prisons?  Of course not — even if the government wants to discourage a certain behavior (in this case, the parents immigrating without the right visa), depriving people of education as a punishment harms society much more than it helps anybody

– Increasing the prevalence of child labor in the state.  If parents with undocumented children can’t send their children to school, they are more likely to send their children to work with them, even in dangerous occupations like farming, where there are tens of thousands of (documented) injuries of children each year.  As reported by the Human Rights Watch:

Juvenile farmworkers are routinely exposed to dangerous pesticides, suffering rashes, headaches, dizziness, nausea and vomiting. Long-term consequences of pesticide poisoning include cancer, brain damage, and learning and memory problems. Many young farmworkers are forced to work without access to toilet facilities, handwashing facilities, and adequate drinking water, the three most basic sanitation requirements. The lack of handwashing facilities contributes to pesticide poisoning and bacterial infections, while the lack of adequate drinking water can lead to dehydration and heat illness. Children often work in fields where the temperature is well above 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

No child deserves this.

-Violating basic human rights.  According to Article 26 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights, “Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory.”  North Carolina would be saying: if you’re undocumented, education is not only not compulsory, it is discouraged.  Basic human rights should be guaranteed to everyone.

Why else should you oppose HB744?
Most Americans support the institution of illegal immigration every day with their consumer decisions–by eating factory farmed food (more than half of all farmworkers in the United States are undocumented), buying from major chains like Chipotle (40% of its workforce in Minnesota were undocumented earlier this year), inviting them to build our homes and offices, and clean our trash up after us.  Most consumers are complicit in the system.  When we continue to patronize business that make use of illegal labor, it shouldn’t surprise us that desperately poor families from other countries decide to come to America.  The children of these workers belong in schools–not in the fields, not in restaurants, and not in the streets.
If you’re a Duke Student, call your representative in the NC House, Paul Luebke, at 919-733-7663 and voice your opposition to HB744.

Published by Elena Botella

Elena Botella is a Duke Undergraduate in the Class of 2013, majoring in Economics and Math.

4 thoughts on “ICE Agents in NC K-12 Schools?

  1. 1. Read Plyer vs. Doe for starters.
    2. This isn’t immigration with the ‘wrong’ visa…this is NO VISA-education funded by taxpayers.
    3. Most North Carolinians do NOT want ILLEGAL labor…period.
    4. Chipotle – Customers knew these were illegal alien workers? Sounds like profiling-
    5. Homebuilders/Construction – We have out-of-work legal builders across the state. There is no shame in homebuilding. It is a trade and in its highest form an artisan skill.
    6. Clean ‘our’ trash up? What are you talking about? Sanitation workers are city/county employees and LEGAL. Road crews of prison labor? What trash where?
    7. Please inform us as to how we should ‘know’ who employs ILLEGAL LABOR…short of profiling the workforce.
    8. HB744 is for information gathering purposes…should we bury the statistics of ILLEGAL immigration? It is costing NC taxpayers a bundle. ESL, Federal lunch $$, after school care, tutors, bi-lingual teacher, new schools….


  2. When I was a student I participated in farm labor all across the state.

    Your article state: Many young farmworkers are forced to work without access to toilet facilities, handwashing facilities, and adequate drinking water, the three most basic sanitation requirements. The lack of handwashing facilities contributes to pesticide poisoning and bacterial infections, while the lack of adequate drinking water can lead to dehydration and heat illness. Children often work in fields where the temperature is well above 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

    Please define CHILDREN. I worked in the fields when the temps were above 100 degrees. however, we understood the risk and took appropriate measure. Bathrooms? Handwashing? Are you serious?

    With all of the issues in the world today, how do you see HB 744 being a part of this issue?


  3. @ Maureen — If you’re willing to pay the prices that good and services will cost without the use of illegal immigration, consider buying some or all of your food at local farmer’s markets, and speaking personally with the operators of the businesses you patronize — if they won’t agree to speak with you about their labor practices, you can virtually guarantee they aren’t following the letter of the law. I’m not advocating racial profiling (nor do I personally advocate that you stop patronizing businessses that make use of undocumented labor, because my reading of the academic literature on undocumented immigration is that the benefits to our economy and our nation outweigh the costs.
    Your point about “wrong” visas strictly speaking isn’t true — 45% of illegal immigrants are what are called visa overstays (
    Education is expensive (for that matter, it is also expensive to educate U.S. citizens)–we educate children because it is an investment, because the better the education system of a country, the more that country grows and prospers. If these families are in the United States, it is better for children to be in schools than in fields or in the streets.
    If the state of North Carolina wanted to basically eliminate the use of undocumented labor, all if would have to do is implement an e-verify system in the workforce; almost no states have done this (Arizona may end up passing legislation on the matter — Nebraska did and then almost immediately retracted the law (Operation Vanguard), when they realized the would have to fire 15% of their workforce in key industries. When I see legislation like that on the books in North Carolina, then I’ll believe that people are serious about thinking that undocumented labor is a problem. Until then, I’ll still think that anti-immigrant North Carolinians are afraid of outsiders, or want to exploit their labor without educating their children or protecting them from abuse.
    You can capitalize “illegal” all you want to try to make undocumented immigrants seem like bad people. If you came from a desperately poor family in a country with no economic opportunities, and found that just across the border there were lots of businesses willing to put you to work, what would you do to feed your children?

    @ RJ — At its best, agricultural labor can be an awesome experience, a way for people to connect with where their food comes from. How do I define children? Well, UC Berkley statistics say that average age at which farmworkers start working is 15! (Which means that half start younger–I’ll put the source in my next comment). If you have responsible farm operators who are concerned about their employees, then high temperatures alone are uncomfortable, but don’t have to be dangerous (if workers have appropriate access to water, etc.)
    RJ, I’m guessing you’re a U.S. citizen and are a fluent English speaker, which means that if your employers were providing you with contaminated water or forced you to pay for your water at high prices, that you would feel comfortable reporting them to OSHA. You probably experienced a very different world of farm labor than undocumented immigrants do (in fact, if you weren’t working alongside undocumented immigrants, than your experience was statistically not representative of how food is grown in the United States!)

    HB744 is a part of the issue because if we make parents afraid to let their children go to school, the other places where these children will end up will not be as safe, and won’t enable these kids to grow up and make a positive difference in their communities.


    1. And as promised—

      Arroyo and Kurre, “Young Agricultural Workers in California,” Labor Occupational Health Program, Center for Occupational and Environmental Health, School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley, November 1997, pp. 18-20.

      (I would feel bad not citing this statistic, because I know it will surprise some people how systematic the use of child labor is. )


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