Q: We have several out-of-state school trips planned, and some of our volunteer parents may be undocumented. We also have several students going on international enrichment trips this summer, and we know that even U.S. citizens who are immigrants have had some challenges while traveling. What guidance should we give staff members who are planning or supporting these trips?
You raise an important new issue for school personnel to consider when planning educational trips. Clearly, undocumented students are most affected, but others—including students with undocumented family members or those who may be perceived as immigrants—are also at risk. Keep in mind, too, that parent chaperones or school personnel might also be affected, depending on their status. As a matter of both safety and equity, we’re urging schools to rethink student trips entirely.
Here are some considerations to keep in mind for both domestic and international travel.
- Undocumented students, family members or school personnel who do not hold government-issued IDs will not be able to travel by air; attempting to do so may attract the attention of TSA agents.
- In planning the trip, thoroughly investigate whether destinations require government-issued ID. For instance, students planning to tour certain government buildings in Washington, D.C. might be required to show an official ID as part of their security screening.
- Schools should also find out if ICE or local police are aggressively enforcing immigration laws in the area they are traveling to or through. If so, the school should consult with immigration attorneys and have a plan to protect members of their party in case any students, family members or school personnel are targeted for questioning or detained.
- Schools in border areas should prepare to be stopped on the road, particularly if traveling via chartered bus. While school buses are still seen as “sensitive places” by ICE officials, charter buses are not.
- Prior to any trip, consider discussing with all students of color and students who wear visible religious clothing the possiblity that they may experience racism or bias when traveling.
- Undocumented students, family members or school personnel who are likely to be denied re-entry to the United States should not travel at all.
- DACA-mented students should also not travel internationally.
- Schools should have a plan, approved by immigration attorneys, for documented travelers who are or who could be perceived to be Muslim, Arab, Middle Eastern or South Asian, and particularly those with passports from one of the six countries subject to the travel ban (Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen). The plan should include key contacts and list the steps chaperones and school officials should take if U.S. officials detain anyone at the border. All travelers should carry copies of the plan.
- Keep in mind that “extreme vetting” could last for hours or days and might happen even while traveling on a valid visa.
Sadly, the mind-broadening benefits of school travel are no longer available to many immigrant students.
School leaders who care about equity—about ensuring that each student has access to every educational opportunity—should consider cancelling trips that are available to only a subset of their students.