June 29, 2022

Betsy DeVos just said schools can call ICE on their students

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It seems Education Secretary Betsy DeVos needs to be better educated about the laws of the United States as it applies to the right of children from any background to attend public schools.


DeVos ran into a buzzsaw of controversy and anger on Tuesday when while testifying before the House Education and Workforce Committee, she was asked whether or not administrators should call the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency on their students. 

“I think that’s a school decision, it’s a local community decision,” said DeVos. “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.”

The fact that her answer was not an immediate and vocal “NO!” tells you all you need to know about this woman the administration she serves.

Actually, it is not up to DeVos or the local schools.

In 1982, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a landmark decision Plyler v. Doe that states cannot constitutionally deny a free education to a student based on their immigration status. 

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Even when reminded of the court ruling, DeVos insisted it was a local school decision to make.

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Later her spokesperson, Elizabeth Hill, told HuffPost that DeVos’s position is “that schools must comply with Plyler and all other applicable and relevant law.”

Others do not see it as an ambiguous question.

“Let’s be clear: 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,” said Lorella Praeli, director of immigration policy and campaigns for the ACLU, in a statement to HuffPo. 

What DeVos is doing is spewing double-talk, not backing down on her dog whistle to states and schools and telling them that they can feel free to call ICE on students, and indirectly on parents.

MAQLDEF (the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund), demanded that DeVos resign for “abject incompetence” if she does not “issue an immediate clarification that emphasizes the holding in Plyler.”

The organization also said it “stands ready to hold accountable through legal challenge anyone in public education who attempts to report a student to ICE.”

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Andrea Senteno, legislative staff attorney for MALDEF, said the fact is that schools have seen big drops in attendance after ICE raids at nearby businesses and this is worse.

“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,” Senteno said. “There are going to be students and family members who are not going to know what that means.”

DeVos has already shown she knows little about public education in America and does not value it, preferring to push for the growth of charter schools, many of them faith-based.

Now she shows that her interest is not in the welfare of children, or in providing universal education to all children, but rather aligns with Trump’s virulent anti-immigration stance. 

She has proven she is unqualified for her job by an absence of background and knowledge and now proves it again by her lack of empathy for children.

Benjamin Locke

Benjamin Locke is a retired college professor with an undergraduate degree in Industrial Labor and Relations from Cornell University and an MBA from the European School of Management.

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