More than 100 lawmakers on Capitol Hill have sent Betsy DeVos a letter calling on her to correct her comments last month to the House education committee that it’s up to schools whether to report undocumented students to federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
In the June 4 letter, Rep. Adriano Espaillat, D-N.Y., who questioned DeVos about undocumented students and ICE in that committee hearing, claimed that DeVos’ comments were not only inaccurate, but dangerous. He also brushed aside DeVos’ subsequent clarifications following the committee hearing as inadequate.
During the May 22 committee hearing, Espaillat asked DeVos whether she thought teachers and principals had a duty to report such students to ICE. “I think that’s a school decision, it’s a local community decision,” DeVos told Espaillat. “We have laws, and we also are compassionate. And I urge this body to do its job and address and clarify where there is confusion around this.” Immigration and civil rights advocates quickly denounced her statement, saying that the Plyler v. Doe decision protected undocumented students from being discriminated against by school districts.
DeVos said the day after the hearing that she believed schools must abide by Plyler, and also that she had no plans to rescind Obama-era guidance and letters to schools designed to protect those students. But this didn’t satisfy Espaillat and his colleagues on the Hill.
“Left uncorrected, your testimony leaves immigrant communities fearful of interaction with public schools,” the lawmakers wrote in their Monday letter. “Left uncorrected, your testimony could do irreparable harm to educational opportunity for undocumented children.”
Both ranking members of the congressional education committees, Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., signed onto the letter. DeVos is headed back to the Hill on Tuesday to testify before the Senate subcommittee on education appropriations about Trump’s fiscal 2019 budget request. So we might get more questions about this issue from Democratic lawmakers very soon.
Read the full letter from Espaillat and the other lawmakers below:
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Photo: A giant television screen projects an image of the proceedings as Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos testifies before a House Committee on Education and the Workforce hearing on May 22 in Washington. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)