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Schools Can Call ICE On Undocumented Students, Says Betsy DeVos

DeVos, saying reporting students was a “local community decision,” stirred up outrage earlier this week.

By Sharon Lynn Pruitt

Should schools call Immigration and Customs Enforcement on undocumented students?

Donald Trump’s Education Secretary Betsy DeVos suggested earlier this week that reporting undocumented students should be left up to individual schools and communities.

Rep. Adriano Espaillat, D-N.Y. first brought up the topic of immigration enforcement among students during a House Committee on Education and the Workforce Hearing on Tuesday, The Washington Post reports.

“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?” Espaillat asked.

DeVos said they could.

“Sir, I think that’s a school decision. That’s a local community decision,” DeVos responded. “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.”

Rep. Espaillat jumped to remind Secretary DeVos that all children have access to a free public education in the United States.

“Let me just remind Madam Chair that immigration law is federal law. It’s not a local law. It’s not governed by a municipality,” Espaillat responded, according to ABC News. He then referenced the Supreme Court’s 1982 decision in the case of Plyler v. Doe, a ruling requiring that children have access to a public education, regardless of immigration status.

DeVos’ comments have sparked backlash from advocacy groups.

“Let’s be clear: Any school that reports a child to ICE would violate the Constitution,” Lorella Praeli, director of immigration policy and campaigns at the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement on Tuesday. “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.”

DeVos did acknowledge the 1982 Supreme Court decision in her testimony on Tuesday, CNN reports, when she noted that “there are undocumented children in K-12 education today that we support and give education to on a daily basis.”

Education Department press secretary Elizabeth Hill clarified DeVos’ statements in a statement to CNN on Wednesday.

“The Secretary’s position remains that schools must comply with Plyler and all other applicable law and regulation,” she said, after commenting that “the Secretary has said repeatedly, we are a nation of laws and we are also a nation of compassion.”

[Photo: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos testifies during a House House Education and the Workforce Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, May 22, 2018 in Washington, DC. By Mark Wilson/Getty Images]