Kids Of Illegal Immigrants Skip School

Kids of illegal immigrants skip school
Deportation fears keep them away

By Tom Godfrey
The Toronto Sun (Canada), September 3, 2008

Hundreds of Toronto students who are in Canada illegally are too scared to go to school over fears they'll be deported, teachers and immigration groups say.

The Toronto District School Board is not living up to its policy of not asking about immigration status, Farrah Miranda, of No One Is Illegal said yesterday.

As many as 200,000 families are living illegally in Toronto, she said, and many have children who are eligible for school but don't go because they fear deportation.

The board two years ago adopted a Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy that has yet to take effect, she said, adding children here illegally have the right to attend school.

'The government has failed to implement real changes on the ground,' Miranda told a news conference. 'Schools shouldn't pick and choose which children can enter the classroom based on their immigration status.'

The policy will prevent school officials from telling police and immigration officials if a student is in the country illegally, she said.

Pamela Dogra, of Elementary Teachers of Toronto, said she's concerned about the health and safety of the children.

'Teachers are very concerned but most of the time they don't know what the proper policy is,' she said. 'The policy changes from school to school.'

Toronto lawyer Albert Koehl said many school officials don't know about the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy.

'The board is too wrapped up in establishing a lucrative field in student visas,' Koehl said, adding foreign pupils who are here legally bring in $11,000 in tuition to cash-strapped schools.

TDSB spokesman Kelly Baker said 68 illegal students were accepted last year,. 'No one is turned away from our schools,' he said.