Increase in ICE arrests negatively affecting students, CMS employees say

Recent ICE arrests in Charlotte are starting to impact some of the youngest members of the community.

“I have kids coming in and the first thing they to say to me is ‘can I call my mom? Can I call my dad?’”

Salma Villarreal does community outreach for ourBRIDGE for Kids, an afterschool academic support program that serves around 150 immigrant and refugee kids— Charlotte Mecklenburg school students from kindergarten through seventh grade.

She says since the increase in ICE arrests was announced last week, she has seen the effect they're having on learning.

“I have had to pick them up and take them to school because the mom is scared to leave the house and few of our kids because we haven't built that trust are missing school and losing their education.” 

“This is an ongoing fear and we are completely concerned for the safety of our children, their mental health, and this is really affecting them.” 

CMS has noticed as well.

“I think in moments like this we will be known for our humanity,” Superintendent Dr. Clayton Wilcox said. 

Wilcox talked about the ICE arrests during Tuesday’s school board meeting, encouraging his staff to be on alert.

“I am calling on our employee base of more than 19,000 to be aware of the needs of our student and families and look for behavior that may signal a cry for help and we should respond,” he said. 

Villarreal believes this issue is going to get worse.

“They are going to need a lot more support, we are going to need mental health providers and have volunteers to come and show our children that they are safe, welcomed and loved,” she said. "Families don't deserve to be broken up."