Betsy DeVos Says Schools Should Have The Power To Report Undocumented Kids

by Julie Scagell
Originally Published: 
Image via Getty Images/ Mark Wilson

She says ‘individual schools’ should decide whether to report undocumented students to ICE

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is under fire once again, this time for remarks she made this week in front of Congress stating it’s up to individual schools to decide whether to call U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) if they believe a student may be undocumented.

During an educational panel earlier this week, Representative Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.) asked DeVos whether school principals and teachers had a responsibility to report undocumented students or their families to immigration authorities.

“I think that is — that is a school decision,” DeVos said during her testimony before the House Education and Workforce Committee. “It’s a local community decision and again I refer to the fact that 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. These issues are state and local issues to be addressed and dealt with.”

Espaillat immediately jumped on the secretary’s remarks, reminding her that immigration policies are not defined by individual states or communities but rather by the federal government. “Let me just remind Madam Chair that immigration law is federal law,” he said. “It’s not a local law. It’s not governed by a municipality.”

As you can imagine, civil rights groups were quick to educate DeVos as well, citing a 1982 Supreme Court ruling in Plyler v. Doe that guarantees the rights of students to receive a public education regardless of their immigration status. Reporting them to ICE, among other things, would directly contradict this ruling.

“Any public school or school district that denies an education to any undocumented child – whether by refusing to enroll, by limiting access to the programs and benefits provided to other students, or by reporting a child to ICE – has violated the United States Constitution,” President and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund Thomas A. Saenz added.

The latest DeVos “idea” reeks of racial profiling. Needless to say, many people have opinions about this.

Shockingly, this isn’t the first time DeVos’ comments have made headlines. There was her disastrous 60 Minutes interview where she proved just how little she actually knows about the school system, her belief college rapists should have more rights, and of course who can forget her thoughts on arming teachers because, grizzly bears.

Her most recent comments “could very well have a chilling effect on families seeking to attend and enroll in our public schools, and invite mischief from schools across the country,” says Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

“The suggestion that individual schools should have the discretion to determine if and when to report undocumented students flies in the face of well-settled and long-standing Supreme Court precedent which makes clear that no student should be denied the right to a public education based on their immigration status.”

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