Charlotte, N.C. - Students are staying home from school, but not for the usual reasons. Charlotte-Mecklenburg School teachers tell us several of their undocumented students have stopped coming to class for fear of deportation. This is happening after a fellow student was arrested by immigration officers near a school bus stop.
It was just a regular day at school when one of Rebecca Costas' students came up to her and said he had a problem.
"He had seen immigration officers around his bus stop. They stopped to question him and other students. He was shaken up when he got to school. He told me and my fellow teacher that he didn't feel like he could go home," said Costas, a teacher at Myers Park High School.
That student isn’t not the only one.
"One has completely disappeared. One has stopped coming and told us he can't come back to school and that he has to move again because he knows they're looking for him," said Costas.
She's talking, about "ICE" or immigration and customs enforcement.
This is all happening after late January when 19-year-old Yefri Sorto, a student at West Mecklenburg High School, was arrested on his way from his house to the bus stop which is less than a block away. His mother remembers the moment like it was yesterday.
"Every morning I would send him a text message, 'Did you get on the bus?' And he would say 'Yes, I'm on the bus.' But that morning, my son didn't respond," said Elsy Hernandez who is legally living in the United States.
Why would “ICE” be interested in someone like Yefri Sorto who hasn't had any run-ins with local law enforcement? We spoke with immigration and customs enforcement and they say students are a top priority for deportation if they were arrested at the border or are a recent arrival. They don't want them to create roots here in the U.S.
"I admit it's a sad issue having 18 year olds or 16 year olds who really weren't involved in this, but until there's a solution, in my opinion, everybody's got to go back," said Mecklenburg County Commissioner Bill James.
He says “ICE” should continue to do its job and enforce immigration law.
"Illegals are here illegally. They broke the law so they have to pay a consequence," said James.
As for Rebecca Costas and other CMS teachers, they’re asking immigration agents to focus on criminals and not students.
"I want immigration to stop targeting these students. Stop going after students just because they're 18. They're doing well in school and trying to become a member of the community," said Costas.
As it stands right now, immigration enforcement says it has not and will not - as a matter of policy - make arrests at schools or bus stops. The walk to or from the bus stop, however, is fair game.
CMS says Superintendent Ann Clark recently met with immigration officials to ensure that schools and bus stops remain a safe harbor for students.
As for the student who was arrested in January, he's set to be deported any day now.