LOS ANGELES – Please attribute the following statement on today’s testimony by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce to Thomas A. Saenz, president and general counsel of MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund):
“Like so many in this administration, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos desperately needs competent legal advice; her testimony today about reporting students to ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) stems either from an astounding ignorance of the law or from an insupportable unwillingness to accurately advise local school districts. Either of these indicates a severe dereliction of duty.
The United States Supreme Court determined this issue over 35 years ago. In Plyler v. Doe, a case in which MALDEF represented the plaintiffs, the Court determined in 1982 that the Constitution requires all public schools to provide a free public education, from Kindergarten to 12th grade, to every child, regardless of immigration status. Any public school or school district that denies an education to any undocumented child – whether by refusing to enroll, by limiting access to the programs and benefits provided to other students, or by reporting a child to ICE – has violated the United States Constitution.
MALDEF stands ready to hold accountable through legal challenge anyone in public education who attempts to report a student to ICE.
DeVos should have her department issue an immediate clarification that emphasizes the holding in Plyler. Otherwise, she should resign forthwith for abject incompetence.”