Education Secretary Betsy DeVos caused an uproar this Tuesday when she seemingly endorsed the notion of schools calling immigration officials on potential undocumented immigrants.
While testifying before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, DeVos was asked by Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-NY) if undocumented parents should be arrested right outside their school as they wait for their children.
“I would just say we are both a nation of laws and we are a compassionate people,” DeVos replied. As she continued, Espaillat interrupted her, saying the question required a “yes or no answer.”
“I think it’s important that we follow the laws of the land,” she continued, with Espaillat reiterating that he wanted an answer of either yes or no.
“I would appreciated if you would give me a yes or no,” Espaillat insisted, only to hear DeVos more or less repeat her remarks.
When asked if undocumented children attending schools in the U.S. should be subject to school administrators calling ICE to have “that family reported,” DeVos still refused to answer with a straight yes or no, instead saying:
“I think that’s a school decision, it’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 and clarify where there is confusion around this.”
But Espaillat wasn’t having any of it.
“Let me just remind madam chair that immigration law is federal law. It’s not local law,” said Espaillat, who, according to NBC News, came to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic at age 9 and was undocumented when his family overstayed their visa. “You cannot have immigration law for one state be different than for another state. It applies to everybody across the country.”
From NBC News:
After the hearing, educators and advocates also sharply disputed DeVos’ comments and noted a 1982 Supreme Court decision that states cannot deny students free public education based on their immigration status.
“We are shocked, incredulous and we’re really upset that the leader of our public schools, the Education Department, would be so uninformed and wrong,” said Rocío Inclán, a former Arizona teacher and director of the Center for Social Justice at the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers’ union.
When Inclán learned of DeVos’ remarks, “I could see the faces of my students whom I taught in Arizona, many of whom I still am in contact with and who are DACA recipients themselves,” Inclán said Wednesday, referring to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. “I know the impact that her words are having right now in schools.”
Watch the exchange on the video below:
Featured image via screen grab