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DeVos backtracks, says schools can't call ICE on students

DeVos backtracks, says schools can't call ICE on students
© Greg Nash

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVosElizabeth (Betsy) Dee DeVosO'Rourke targets Cruz with several attack ads a day after debate Charter schools’ ‘Uberization’ of teaching profession hurts kids too Court rules Obama-era student loan regulations must take effect MORE said on Tuesday that she doesn’t believe schools can call Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on undocumented students, a switch from comments she made last month in which she called it a "local" decision.

At a Senate Appropriations subcommittee to discuss President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Guardian slams Trump over comments about assault on reporter Five takeaways from the first North Dakota Senate debate Watchdog org: Tillerson used million in taxpayer funds to fly throughout US MORE’s education budget request, DeVos was asked by Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphySaudi mystery drives wedge between Trump, GOP Overnight Defense: Trump worries Saudi Arabia treated as 'guilty until proven innocent' | McConnell opens door to sanctions | Joint Chiefs chair to meet Saudi counterpart | Mattis says Trump backs him '100 percent' Pompeo: Saudis committed to 'accountability' over journalist's disappearance MORE (D-Conn.) if schools can call ICE on their students.

“I don’t think they can,” DeVos responded after a tense exchange with Murphy where she repeatedly skirted his question.

DeVos first told Murphy that the 1982 Supreme Court decision in Plyler v. Doe “says students that are not documented have the right to an education.”

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“I think it is incumbent on us to ensure that those students have a safe and secure environment to attend school, to learn,” DeVos said.

This marks a change from comments DeVos made in May at a House Education and the Workforce Committee hearing, where she said that it was a school’s decision whether educators were responsible for calling ICE if they found out a student or their family was undocumented.

“I think that’s a school decision,” DeVos said last month. “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 heavily criticized DeVos for her May comments and cited Plyler v. Doe to argue that schools are required by the Constitution to provide schooling for children.

“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,” the group said. “Secretary DeVos is once again wrong.”

The Department of Education had said that the secretary believes schools should follow the principles set by the court case, but Democrats had been pushing for DeVos to publicly correct her previous comments.

The Trump administration has sharply ramped up immigration enforcement, including deportations of those here illegally.