Civil rights groups melted down after Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ Tuesday testimony to the House of Representatives concerning illegal alien students.
Schools can determine whether or not they want to report illegal alien students to immigration enforcement, DeVos said when addressing the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, reported The Washington Post.
“Inside the school, if a principal or a teacher finds out that a certain child is undocumented, or his or her family members are undocumented, do you feel that the principal or teacher is responsible to call [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] and to have that family reported?” Democratic Rep. Adriano Espaillat of New York asked her.
“Sir, I think that’s a school decision,” DeVos answered. “That’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 or clarify where there is confusion around this.”
The American Civil Liberties Union disputed the secretary’s statement, referencing the Supreme Court case Plyler v. Doe, in which the court ruled that public schools must teach children irrespective of their immigration status.
The ACLU believes that reporting students to ICE constitutes a violation of the ruling.
“Let’s be clear: Any school that reports a child to ICE would violate the Constitution,” said Lorella Praeli, the ACLU’s director of immigration policy and campaigns. “Secretary DeVos is once again wrong.”
States have attempted to subvert Plyler v. Doe in the past.
California passed Proposition 187 in 1994, mandating that schools remove illegal alien students and report suspected illegal alien students to law enforcement, but a federal court struck the law down.
Alabama passed a 2011 provision requiring schools to ask for and report students’ immigration statuses to the state, but the federal government stated the rule violated Plyler as it was followed by a spike in absenteeism for Latino students.
DeVos “desperately needs competent legal advice,” the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund stated.
“Her testimony today about reporting students to ICE stems either from an astounding ignorance of the law or from an insupportable unwillingness to accurately advise local school districts,” the group’s president, Thomas A. Saenz, said, according to The Post.
“Betsy DeVos should know better, and to suggest otherwise only serves to frighten children,” National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García said.
Department of Education spokeswoman Liz Hill said that DeVos has always believed that Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals students are entitled to K-12 education.
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