tags: , , AVEF, Press Releases

Betsy DeVos is Wrong: Schools May NOT Contact ICE Regarding Immigrant Children

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It is Unconstitutional and a Clear Violation of DHS Policy

Yesterday, directly contradicting decades-old Supreme Court case law and federal policy on immigration enforcement around schools, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos argued that individual schools can decide to report students and families to immigration enforcement.

U.S. Supreme Court law ensures undocumented children are entitled to public education. As the Supreme Court ruled in 1982 in Plyler v. Doe, states cannot, on account of immigration status, deny students public education.

The Supreme Court stated: “If the State is to deny a discrete group of innocent children the free public education that it offers to other children residing within its borders, that denial must be justified by a showing that it furthers some substantial state interest. No such showing was made here.” This decision has protected and enriched the lives of undocumented children for over thirty years.

As Moriah Balingit of Washington Post reported,

The Supreme Court made clear in Plyler v. Doe that public schools have a constitutional obligation to provide schooling for children, regardless of immigration status. That means schools also cannot enforce measures that would deter undocumented children from registering. They cannot ask about immigration status. And according to the American Civil Liberties Union, they cannot report students or their families to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “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,” Lorella Praeli, the ACLU’s director of immigration policy and campaigns, said in a statement. “Secretary DeVos is once again wrong.”

Also as noted by Moriah Balingit of the Washington Post, other attempts by states, such as California and Alabama, to bar or deter undocumented immigrants from public education have similarly been struck by courts.

Further, the Secretary of Education’s statement contradicts ICE policy, implemented in 2011 and confirmed to be in effect today, which ensures that ICE enforcement actions do not take place at schools, except in very specific circumstances:

  1. Where exigent circumstances exist;
  2. When other law enforcement actions that have led officers to a sensitive location; or
  3. Where prior approval is obtained from a designated supervisory official.


So, despite DeVos’s desire to paint a target on our children’s schools, she is shackled by the law, policy, and precedent.