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School Officials Claim Border Patrol Agents Intimidating Students

April 24, 1992

PHOENIX (AP) _ School officials have accused immigration officers of arresting and intimidating Hispanic pupils who may be undocumented aliens as a ploy to get to their parents.

Sylvia Long, director of the Phoenix Union High School District’s migrant- education program, told a news conference Thursday that families have been deported and students have dropped out of school as a result of some encounters.

Kenia Cortez, an 18-year-old illegal alien enrolled in a migrant-education program at a Phoenix high school, described a run-in she and her 15-year-old sister, Nancy, who is a U.S. citizen, had with Border Patrol agents in February while waiting for a bus.

She said two agents in an unmarked van pulled to the curb, ordered them inside, took them to a downtown building and questioned them about their parents, ultimately threatening to send Nancy to juvenile detention in California.

″It sounds like they were doing their jobs,″ said Border Patrol spokesman Steve McDonald. ″Public transportation is one thing we normally check.″

McDonald said agents are not targeting schoolchildren but have the authority to ask for identification from anybody believed to be an undocumented immigrant.

He said Border Patrol officers ask school officials for information from records but do not demand information that is not given voluntarily.

But Grace Perez, who teaches migrant children in the Phoenix Elementary School District, said an 11-year-old pupil was picked up and questioned recently.

She said the child was so frightened that she revealed the address of her grandmother, an illegal alien with whom she lived, and they both were deported.

″I know they (agents) have a job to do, but using children is not the way to do it,″ Perez said.