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Washington state school district halts international trips

Children’s drawings that read “Welcome to America, America is a good place,” are displayed Monday, April 24, 2017, at a Jewish Family Service Refugee and Immigrant Service Center in Kent, Wash., during a visit by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. A school district there said it would halt all international school travel due concerns over to President Donald Trump’s recent travel ban. (Ted S. Warren / Associated Press)
Children’s drawings that read “Welcome to America, America is a good place,” are displayed Monday, April 24, 2017, at a Jewish Family Service Refugee and Immigrant Service Center in Kent, Wash., during a visit by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. A school district there said it would halt all international school travel due concerns over to President Donald Trump’s recent travel ban. (Ted S. Warren / Associated Press)
Associated Press

KENT, Wash. – A school district in Washington state has halted all international field trips over concerns students in the country illegally wouldn’t be able to get back in.

The Kent School District’s Board of Directors announced the decision Wednesday, the Seattle Times reported. The decision immediately canceled an education exchange to Osaka, Japan, and a band trip to Victoria, British Columbia, in Canada.

District spokesman Chris Loftis said confusing messages from President Donald Trump’s administration caused uncertainty about whether students would be allowed back into the U.S.

“You cannot go on a field trip with 60 kids and come back with 59,” he said.

The school district said it has students from 100 countries who speak 135 languages.

The district doesn’t track students’ immigration status because of a 1982 U.S. Supreme Court decision that says it’s unconstitutional to deny children in the country illegally a free and public education, Loftis said.

But when a school official called U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the agency said there was a very high chance a student would be detained at the border if the student lacked information needed to get back in, Loftis said.

“Immigration laws have not changed,” the agency said in a statement. “In accordance with the Immigration and Nationality Act, all travelers seeking to enter the United States must prove to the inspecting officer that they are legally entitled to enter the United States.”

Months of planning and fundraising go into international trips, Kent school board President Karen DeBruler said.

“It’s not fair for them not to go, but things are changing on a very unprecedented basis,” she said, noting that keeping the international trips meant students who couldn’t go would be “exposed as being undocumented.”

Many students reacted with dismay to the canceled band trip to Canada, including 17-year-old Molly Barlett, who said the trip was the highlight of the band program.

“I feel bad, but I don’t think we should stop the whole trip just because they can’t go,” she said. “I understand why they (the board) did it, but it also drives me nuts because we’ve gone on other trips and had no problem with border stuff.”

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