Does Betsy DeVos want undocumented students to be reported?
In what many have called "open ignorance of the Constitution," Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said this week that it is at the discretion of each school whether to report the status of students to immigration officials.
After President Donald Trump gave free rein to his campaign against so-called "state sanctuary laws," the Department of Homeland Security stated that its policy "generally discourage immigration enforcement in 'sensitive locations' like schools, but ICE agents are permitted to enter the institutions under some circumstances," POLITICO explained.
These limits seem to have been extinguished when Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos declared on Tuesday that each institution is free to decide the procedure regarding its undocumented students when answering a question from the New York Democratic representative, Adriano Espaillat.
"That’s a school decision. It’s a local community decision," she said during her testimony before the House Education and Workforce Committee. "We have laws and we also are compassionate, and I urge this body to do its job and address and clarify where there is confusion around this."
But DeVos seems to have forgotten the Supreme Court ruling in 1982 in the Plyler v. Doe case that "guarantees the rights of students to receive an education regardless of their immigration status," according to POLITICO.
Furthermore, Espaillat responded with force to remind the secretary that "the immigration law is federal law. It’s not local law. You cannot have immigration law for one state be different than for another state. It applies to everybody across the country.”
DeVos' comments soon became public and unleashed a wave of rejection among legislators, activists, and citizens.
"Let's be clear: any school that reports a child to ICE would violate the Constitution," said Lorella Praeli, director of immigration policy and campaigns at the American Civil Liberties Union. "The Supreme Court has made clear that every child in America has a right to a basic education, regardless of immigration status."
For her part, Rocío Inclán, a former teacher from Arizona and current director of the Center for Social Justice at the National Education Association, said she was "in shock."
"We’re really upset that the leader of our public schools, the Education Department, would be so uninformed and wrong," she said.
Inclán equated the suggestion of DeVos to a teacher becoming an immigration agent.
For Royce Murray, policy director at the American Immigration Council, the issue raises concerns in the immigrant community.
"In this current environment of heightened immigration enforcement, there’s a lot of fear in the communities, and schools are supposed to remain a safe haven for children to go about their daily lives," Murray said, according to NBC News.
Likewise, this could prevent Spanish-speaking parents from attending meetings with teachers, concluded the director.
For Rep. Raúl Grijalva, Democrat of Arizona, DeVos' comments are just the continuation of a campaign that aims to "divide, demonize and dehumanize immigrants and people of color in this country."