School district, immigration attorney meet with parents over deportation fears
DELAVAN, Wis. — Officials with the Delavan-Darien School District in Walworth County invited parents to a meeting with an immigration attorney Thursday afternoon, as parents in the heavily Latino district continue to express fears over deportation.
Last week, the district sent out a letter and poster explaining to parents what their rights are when dealing with federal immigration officials. The letter attracted some controversy among district parents and school board members.
Around half the district’s students are Latino, and district Superintendent Robert Crist said rumors of an upcoming Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid have swirled around the area in recent weeks, stoking parent and student fears.
“Some of our students were afraid to come to school, because, really it’s a government organization,” Crist said. “Whether you like it or not, it is.”
The district invited an immigration attorney to expound further on the matter at a Thursday afternoon meeting at Phoenix Middle School.
Milwaukee attorney Molly Smiltneek took questions from parents and educated them on their rights. She said she encouraged them to prepare for a worst-case scenario where they are separated from their children.
“What happened here tonight was just a know-your-rights information, but it was also a lot of what to do to be respectful in this country and to plan for the worst-case scenario,” Smiltneek said.
Smiltneek said many Latino students with undocumented parents are American citizens, heightening the fear of family separation.
Karina Navarrete, who attended the meeting, said the meeting provided helpful information to Delavan’s Latino community.
“It helped us to know that the community and the school community is here for us to help us,” Navarrete said.
Crist claimed the event was invitation-only and would not allow News 3 cameras into the meeting.
Crist said he stands by his decision to send the letter and hold the meeting and said he wants to do what’s best for students and simply inform them of their rights.
“I’ve always done what I think is in the best interest of students and education,” Crist said.
Crist said Smiltneek appeared at the event free of charge.