Trump's secretary of education has no idea what she's talking about, and she doesn't seem to care.
Even with several weeks to think about it, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is reluctant to admit that students have a right to be educated without fear their schools will report them for deportation.
At a May 23 House hearing, DeVos was asked whether teachers and principals should call Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) on undocumented students and their families. She replied that this was a “local community decision,” and that schools could decide whether to report undocumented students.
Despite weeks of backlash from civil rights groups over her statement, DeVos still wasn’t fully prepared to address the question during a Senate hearing on Tuesday morning.
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) explained to DeVos that her comments contradicted the Supreme Court, and asked her whether current federal law permits a teacher or principal to call ICE to report undocumented students.
Instead of giving a simple “yes” or “no,” DeVos stonewalled.
“I will refer back again to the settled case in Plyler v. Doe in 1982, which says students that are not documented have the right to an education,” she said. “And I think it’s incumbent on us to ensure that those students have a safe and secure environment to attend school to learn, and I maintain that.”
Murphy asked again.
“I think a school is a sacrosanct place for students to be able to learn, and they should be protected there,” DeVos said.
“You seem to be very purposefully not giving me a yes or no answer,” Murphy notes, and pressed her once more for a straight answer.
But DeVos refused, instead offering vague statements about what “educators know in their hearts.”
Murphy repeatedly reminded her that as the secretary of education, she should be able to answer this simple question and provide guidance to schools around the country.
“The question is yes or no, can a principal call ICE on a student, is that allowed under federal law?” Murphy asked.
“In a school setting, a student has the right to be there, and the right to learn,” DeVos said, “and so everything surrounding that should protect that, and enhance that student’s opportunity and that student’s environment.”
“So they can’t call ICE?” Murphy asked.
“I don’t think they can,” DeVos finally answered.
As DeVos reluctantly noted, the Supreme Court ruled, in Plyler v. Doe, that all students have a right to education, regardless of immigration status.
But given the Trump administration’s open hostility to immigrants, including children, it’s no wonder DeVos struggled to come up with the right answer to what should have been a simple question — even though it is her job to know.
DeVos’ struggle during the hearing demonstrated the ignorance she has consistently displayed since being nominated to the post. But her embarrassing performance also shows just how little the Trump administration as a whole cares about immigrant children and their most basic rights.