ACLU blasts DeVos for telling schools to report undocumented students

ACLU blasts DeVos for telling schools to report undocumented students
© Greg Nash

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is slamming Education Secretary Betsy DeVosElizabeth (Betsy) Dee DeVosHillicon Valley: Trump escalates feud with intel critics | Tesla shares fall after troubling Musk interview | House panel considers subpoena for Twitter's Jack Dorsey | Why Turkish citizens are breaking their iPhones Erik Prince denies back channel communication with Putin-linked official in ‘incidental’ meeting Report: Trump considering plan to privatize Afghanistan War MORE after she said Tuesday that schools should decide whether to report undocumented students to immigration enforcement officials.

During DeVos’s testimony before the House Education and the Workforce Committee on Tuesday, Rep. Adriano EspaillatAdriano de Jesus Espaillat CabralDem lawmaker to lead vigil in New York park following anti-immigrant rally Gillibrand: 'We should get rid of ICE' if Dems flip House and Senate NAACP statehood statement leaves Puerto Ricans perplexed MORE (D-N.Y.) grilled the Education secretary for her stance on immigration enforcement.

“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.

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“Sir, I think that’s a school decision,” DeVos said in response. “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.” 

In a statement, the ACLU disagreed with DeVos, citing the Supreme Court decision in Plyler v. Doe, which makes clear that public schools are obligated by the Constitution to provide schooling for children, regardless of their immigration status, The Washington Post reports.

“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,” ACLU’s director of immigration policy and campaigns said in a statement obtained by the Post. “Secretary DeVos is once again wrong.”

The exchange arrives amid an ongoing immigration debate under the Trump administration, with the president threatening to send leaders of so-called sanctuary cities to jail and an increase in immigration enforcement. 

Immigration agents have historically avoided schools, according to the Post. A memo advised agents in 2011 to avoid enforcement activities at “sensitive locations,” which includes schools, hospitals and churches.