Immigration advocates in the state and the Connecticut office of the ACLU blasted Education Secretary Betsy DeVos for saying that a school can chose to call Immigration and Customs Enforcement on students believed to be undocumented.
“Children should be able to trust and learn from their teachers, not face the prospect of educators becoming deputized informants for ICE,” said David McGuire, executive director of the ACLU of Connecticut. “Any Connecticut school that reports a child to ICE would violate the Constitution and contribute to fear and disruption in the classroom and wider community.”
During a U.S. House of Representatives education committee hearing on Tuesday, DeVos said whether a school reports a student to ICE is “a school decision, it’s a local community decision.”
“I refer to the fact that we have laws and we also are compassionate,” DeVos said. “I urge this body to do its job and address and clarify where there is confusion around this.”
DeVos’ statements caused a furor among advocacy groups, who pointed out that under the Supreme Court case Plyler v Doe, all children — undocumented or not –are entitled to a free public education.
Last year, Gov. Dannel Malloy sent the state’s school superintendents a letter urging them to protect their students from ICE officials.
“We encourage you having a plan in place in the event that an ICE agent comes to your school requesting information about or access to a student,” the governor said. “In developing a plan for your district, you should consult with your district’s attorney.”
Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU) also has a protocol for interacting with ICE.
Lucas Codognolla, an immigrant advocate and director of CT Students for a Dream, a group of young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children by their parents, said DeVos’ statement “is a message meant to produce fear in our communities.”
“No student should feel at risk or threatened when seeking to pursue their education,” he said.
Meanwhile, Sen, Richard Blumenthal on Wednesday joined a group of Democrats who wrote to DeVos about the dismissal of more than 500 disability rights complaints by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR).
“These dismissals are the result of OCR’s new protocol for addressing complaints as outlined in the recently updated Case Processing Manual,” the Democrats wrote. “We fear this standard may be used to dismantle students’ civil rights throughout the department.”