Betsy DeVos says schools can call ICE on undocumented students, activists push back
This past Tuesday, a House Committee on Workforce Education meeting sparked an uproar when Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said schools have the choice to call Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on undocumented students.
Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.) asked DeVos for her opinion about whether schools should report potentially undocumented students or parents.
DeVos responded, “I think that’s a school decision, it’s a local community decision. I refer to the fact that we have laws and we also are compassionate. I urge this body to do its job and address and clarify where there is confusion around this.”
While DeVos noted that all students‚undocumented or not—have the right to a free public education, she repeatedly stated it was the choice of school leaders to contact ICE.
Fierce opposition from education groups quickly cited the Plyler v. Doe Supreme Court case that requires all students have access to a public education.
Elizabeth Hill, press secretary for the U.S. Department of Education, tried to clarify DeVos’ remarks to Huffington Post, stating, “[DeVos’] position is that schools must comply with Plyler and all other applicable and relevant law,” but Andrea Senteno, an attorney for MALDEF, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, argues DeVos’ comments enable an atmosphere of fear and drop students’ attendance.
Senteno states, “We are very concerned her statement yesterday leaves open to interpretation what the law actually is for schools and administrators and those in the community. There are going to be students and family members who are not going to know what that means.”
In response to DeVos’ comments, Lorella Praeli, director of immigration policy for the ACLU, wrote in a statement, “Any school that reports a child to ICE would violate the Constitution. The Supreme Court has made clear that every child in America has a right to a basic education, regardless of immigration status. Secretary DeVos is once again wrong.”