Dozens of Groups Call on DeVos to Clear Up Comments on Undocumented Students

Politico reports that more than 160 education and civil rights groups today told Education Secretary Betsy DeVos that she must clarify her recent remarks about schools’ handling of undocumented children.

During her first-ever appearance before the House education committee last week, DeVos said it’s up to individual schools to decide whether to call Immigration and Customs Enforcement if they suspect students are undocumented.

“That’s a school decision. It’s a local community decision,” she said, adding that “we have laws and we also are compassionate.”

The comments earned swift reproach from education and civil rights groups, who said they don’t gel with the Supreme Court’s 1982 ruling in Plyler v. Doe that guaranteed the rights of students to receive a public education regardless of their immigration status.

In their letter today, the groups write, “It is imperative that you immediately make clear publicly, to children, their families, and educators in every public school in multiple languages and through all of the Department’s communication channels that all children in this country have a right to a public education from kindergarten through 12th grade regardless of their immigration status.”

“Schools may not do anything to deny or chill access to that constitutional right, including by reporting, or threatening to report, children to ICE,” the groups write.

The Education Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Education Department spokeswoman Liz Hill told POLITICO last week in an email that “the Secretary has said repeatedly, we are a nation of laws and we are also a nation of compassion. The Secretary’s position remains that schools must comply with Plyler and all other applicable law and regulation. She has also maintained that all children, regardless of immigration status, are guaranteed access to a K-12 public education.”

By Caitlin Emma