After speaking to a Sunday school class about immigration, a woman asked if she could talk to me. She pulled me aside and whispered, “I think there’s a girl in my daughter’s class this year who is, umm, not legal. What should I do?”

She explained that her daughter had befriended a new girl. When they talked, the student was evasive and said she wasn’t allowed to say where she lived for fear someone would take her mother away and send her back to Mexico. The woman asked me, “What should I do? Do I need to turn her in?”

I assured the woman that she had no reason to report the girl or her mother and suggested she encourage her daughter to invite the girl over instead. “But couldn’t we get into trouble if she’s not here legally?” the woman asked.

I often hear these kinds of concerns when I speak about immigration. Fear of being on the wrong side of the law creates confusion about how to respond to immigrants, especially those who may not be in the U.S. legally. Plenty of parents find themselves in similar positions as the woman I spoke with—unsure how to relate to new students or their families when their immigration status is unclear.

Immigration remains a divisive political topic, as President Barack Obama is expected today to announce an executive order aimed specifically at protecting from deportation children who illegally entered the U.S. at a young age and undocumented parents of children who are in the U.S. legally, reports The New York Times.

While Christians hold different political views on how the government should address immigration, in Lifeway’s most recent survey, nearly 80 percent of Protestant pastors agreed that “Christians have a responsibility to assist immigrants, even if they are in the country illegally.” But like the woman I met, many Christians wonder if they are legally allowed to help. Here are five things to know:

1.There is no legal obligation to report someone you suspect is in the U.S. illegally.

Unless you are an employer, you have no obligation to ask for or report the immigration status of anyone. Even if you hire a person as a contractor, you do not need to determine their status nor can you be in legal jeopardy because of their status.

2. It is best not to assume a person’s immigration status.

It is nearly impossible to determine a person’s status just by observing him or her. According to a recent Pew Research report, many of those who live in the U.S. as legal permanent residents do not speak English. Some still fear deportation (although it is rare) and have misconceptions about how they can be treated. Many families include members with different immigration status so children are often confused about how much they can say to others.

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Nearly half of those people in the U.S. without current legal status entered the country legally on a visitor, student, or other visa. Some immigrants were granted legal residency as refugees or asylum seekers and fear speaking about their background because of the persecution they experienced or because of fear of reprisals for their family left behind.

A person in the U.S. on a legal visa may fall out of status if their job or school situation changes and they have not been able to apply for a new visa. Some immigrants are awaiting status hearings. Determining a person’s legal status is not always as simple as it might seem; plus, the vast majority of immigrants in the U.S. are here legally.

3. All children are required to attend school, whatever their immigration status.

Federal and state laws require that all children—regardless of their immigration status or those of their parents—enroll in school. Children must stay in school until the age required by their state (at least 16, but in some states older). So even if a child in school does not have legal immigrant status, he or she not only has a right to be in school, but also an obligation.

But that also means that many of the children attending school from immigrant families lack the resources at home to succeed in school or have parents who lack the language skills to help them study or assist in filling out forms or navigating extra-curricular activities.

4. Teachers and school authorities are not allowed to ask about the immigration status of children or their families.

Although school officials may ask for proof of a child’s age or that a child lives within the boundaries of the school district, they may not ask about citizenship or immigration status. Nor can they prevent a child from enrolling if he or she does not have a social security number or a U.S birth certificate.

Questioning a teacher or school administrator about a child’s immigration status is a violation of the child’s privacy and could jeopardize that teacher’s job. One teacher told me, “I have to be very careful. I’d like to ask some of the families in our school to help a child who is struggling with their home situation but that could get me into trouble. I have to hope a parent notices and takes the initiative to help.”

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5. It is not against the law to welcome a family into your home or help them, even if they are undocumented.

Including new children in the classroom in your family events is a wonderful way to help them feel accepted. Showing hospitality to a child or a family whose immigration status is questionable does not create legal problems for citizens.

New children in any classroom often feel lonely and need a friend. Children whose families are from a different country or culture can feel even more alone. As I assured the woman at church, reaching out to such a child is not only legal; it is a special act of kindness that will benefit not only that other child, but her child as well.

Perhaps one of the best lessons a child can learn is how to make someone who feels like an outsider become truly accepted.

Dale Hanson Bourke is the author of Immigration: Tough Questions, Direct Answers, part of The Skeptic’s Guide series from IVPress. She can be followed at @DaleHBourke or