MASPETH, Queens - New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña greeted families Monday morning at P.S. 58 in Maspeth, Queens, where a federal employee was turned away last week after allegedly asking about a fourth grade student.
"We are aware of who they were looking for. The family has been informed, and we do not believe this was an immigration issue per se," Farina said.
Farina visited the school with Nisha Agarwal, commissioner of the mayor's Office of Immigration Affairs.
"This was not ICE. This was an agent that we are still trying to discover, he didn't bring a card. He did bring a badge," the chancellor said. "He never got beyond the front desk. Our protocol now is to make sure when anyone comes into the building, to show information. He waits outside the school building, then that school notifies the lawyers at DOE, we notify immigrant services, and its handled on that level."
Federal immigration officers apparently showed up at the school on Thursday "as part of an administrative inquiry pertaining to an immigration benefit request."
The visit appears to have been to verify certain facts about the student's enrollment in relation to a request for an immigration benefit.
Mayor Bill de Blasio's spokesman revealed the incident on Twitter over the weekend.
He followed up Monday morning, saying city officials were at the school "reassuring" both students and parents that "federal immigration officials aren't welcome in NYC schools."
Under guidelines issued in March by Mayor de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Fariña, school administrators and security officers were instructed to block federal immigration agents from entering school property without a warrant or court order.
The protocols were rolled out in response to ramped-up immigration enforcement efforts nationwide spurred by the Trump administration.
"This was probably our first test case, and I think we run through it pretty well," Farina added.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services says the officer who showed up at the school presented his business card and followed proper protocol.
USCIS is not an enforcement agency. It is the agency that administers benefits, such as green cards.
The purpose of the visit was to confirm information so the family would be eligible for a benefit.
USCIS said it understands the recent sensitivities, but that there was nothing that involved enforcement in this incident.
The agency's public affairs officer, Katie Tichacek Kaplan, released this statement:
"While I cannot discuss the details of the case, I can confirm that two USCIS officials visited an elementary school in Maspeth, Queens as part of an administrative inquiry pertaining to an immigration benefit request. Although school visits are not routine in these circumstances, they are not unprecedented. 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. At no time did the officers ask to see or speak with the student, who was not the subject of the administrative inquiry."