"We have a student who came to the United States with a 'coyote' (...) and this group gives him a time limit to make a payment of $5,000 dollars," read an email sent to the staff of a school in Rhode Island on Thursday, January 26 at 8:21 pm, from the deputy director's account.
The message, which carries the subject "student needs help," asks for donations from staff at the school, Mount Pleasant High School in Providence, a city in the northwestern part of the state.
The student, says the email, still needs to raise $2,000 and must get it as soon
as possible , since he has until February 1 to settle his debt with a "coyote."
A Providence Public School District spokesperson confirmed the validity of the curious email to NBC 10 News, saying the school had launched an internal investigation.
“The school principal immediately took steps to have a retraction issued when she learned of the email,” the statement said.
The deputy director, it was reported Monday, has been placed on paid leave.
No details were given about whether it was indeed an initiative of the deputy director or about the alleged family or student in need.
Noticias Telemundo sent requests for information to the school, the teachers union and the school district, which had not responded as of Tuesday night.
Maribeth Calabro, president of the Providencia Teachers Union, also confirmed the email, and expressed regret for the situation of the alleged family that would be collecting money.
“We know that District leadership launched an immediate investigation.
Our concern is for the safety and well-being of the student
," she remarked in a statement to NBC 10 News.
What the coyotes charge migrants is doubled (but paying them more does not guarantee them anything)
Providence is a city of just over 109,000 with a large migrant community.
70% of the 1,160 students at the school are Latino or Hispanic
, indicate official data.
The email did not take long to attract the attention of many: within hours it was leaked in screenshots shared on social networks, in particular by users who tend to spread unverified anti-immigration content.
Some even used what happened to launch racist attacks and speak, without evidence, of schools full of “aliens” children, a word that means foreigner in English and that the federal government has proposed to be eliminated from the legislation.
The school's principal, surnamed Delaney, sent an email to all staff on Friday, after the message was released asking for help for the migrant student.
"Not appropriate," she wrote.
“I was informed that there was an email seeking financial support for one of our students.
I appreciated the faculty and staff contributing to a cause that supports a student, but
the nature of the request is not appropriate
,” Delaney wrote, according to shared screenshots.
Delaney added: “All funds contributed will be returned and
we will look at more appropriate methods to support students
On local radio, the news generated interviews with teachers and parents.
A representative of the teachers' union told radio host Matt Allen that she consulted with teachers at the school and they told her that they "realized pretty quickly that
it wasn't a trick or a misrepresentation or a joke
Mount Pleasant High School, in Providence, Rhode Island.
Others shared their own stories as migrants: a resident claimed on a local program that he had paid $1,500 to a human smuggler, popularly known as a "coyote," and recounted his ordeal.
The disseminated email contained an erroneous definition of the so-called “coyotes”, as it described them as a
“group that helps people”
“We have a student who came to the United States with a 'Coyote,' which is a group that helps people.
This group gives you a time frame to make a payment of $5,000 to those who are brought to the United States," the email explains.
The Department of Justice defines “coyotes” as “human traffickers”: they charge a fee to those who want to cross illegally from Mexico into the United States, and are often closely associated with drug cartels and other criminal gangs.
It is not uncommon for migrants who use them on their journeys to be victims of sexual violence, injury or death.
"Our student urgently needs our support to raise another $2,000 to reach his goal of $5,000 before February 1, 2023," the email specifies.
Border Patrol finds a 4-year-old boy alone near the wall in New Mexico
Immigrant advocates have pointed out that these groups commit kidnappings, extortion and abuse of those who aspire to seek asylum in the US "
leave migrants in remote and dangerous areas," according to the Border Patrol.
The Government of Joe Biden has announced measures to combat them.
The episodes that illustrate the danger of risking life in the hands of human traffickers are innumerable.
This month three migrant girls from El Salvador were abandoned to their fate in the Rio Grande, two babies were left in the Arizona desert in the middle of August, and dozens died crammed into a truck in Texas in June.
NBC 10 News asked Maribeth Calabro, the president of the Providencia Teachers Union, if "coyotes" are known to be used to bring students across the border.
“Not in my 30 years.
I have not listened.
No student has revealed to me or my friends that coyotes are used, but if you watch enough TV, you can tell that coyotes are real," the official said.