U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is threatening immigrant children’s safety with her ignorance of the law demonstrated by her comments claiming that reporting undocumented students to authorities is a local “school decision,” when in fact federal law prohibits such action.
DeVos’s comments during her testimony last week before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce threaten to collapse the already deteriorated trust that immigrants have for the very social structure that is supposed to welcome and integrate them.
Here on Long Island, local police and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have been undermining community trust by targeting kids with arbitrary gang allegations, as evidenced by the New York Immigration Coalition’s recently released report. The report describes such questionable criteria for gang affiliation, including wearing certain kinds of clothing, using the Salvadoran country code of “503,” and merely living in a high gang activity neighborhood.
It has already been established by the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1982 decision on the case of Plyler v. Doe that all children, regardless of immigration status, have a right to education. The case was spurred by the Texas state legislature attempting to amend its laws to withhold funds from school districts with undocumented students and even allowed districts to ban them from enrolling. In tandem, local school district superintendent James Plyler instituted a policy that would charge undocumented students an annual $1,000 tuition.
“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,” Lorella Praeli, the ACLU’s director of immigration policy and campaigns, said in a statement, as reported by The Washington Post. “Secretary DeVos is once again wrong.”
Almost 200 civil rights and immigrant advocacy organizations have co-signed a letter to DeVos, demanding that she retract and clarify her statements to make it clear that all students are welcome in our schools and need not fear the threat of deportation.