LOS ANGELES – Thomas A. Saenz, president and general counsel of MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund), issued the following response to a statement released today by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos attempting to explain her testimony before Congress:
“In an apparently committed effort to lap the field as the worst education secretary ever, Betsy DeVos today issued a late and lame retreat from her notorious display of ignorance before the Congress last week. In her statement, she blames others for her gross misinterpretation of constitutional law and never actually withdraws her statement that local schools could decide whether to report undocumented students to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
While Donald Trump regularly ham-handedly tries to convince everyone that he did not say what he actually said, and to blame others for reporting his comments accurately and reacting to their dangerousness, frankly the secretary of education has a higher responsibility to students nationwide. This was a teachable moment for students across the country, and DeVos – following extremely bad advice from the White House no doubt – chose not to accept responsibility and correct her mistake, but to lie about her remarks, call names, and blame others. What a shining example of what leaders should not do.
Today’s statement that schools should not become ‘immigration enforcement zones,’ is not remotely sufficient to counter her congressional testimony. A cynic might reconcile her two statements by concluding that DeVos believes that it is okay for schools to report students so long as enforcement actions occur away from the school. DeVos should make quite clear that school personnel have a responsibility to every child to protect, to inform, and to inspire. That means that they may not report any student to ICE; indeed, doing so would violate the Constitution under Plyler v. Doe. No child should fear that her teacher or principal may be a covert ICE informant.
Today’s statement demonstrates once more that Betsy DeVos is unfit to serve as the leader of public education in this country. She should resign forthwith.”