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J.D. Long-GarcíaMay 25, 2018
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos testifies at a House Committee on Education and the Workforce, Tuesday, May 22, 2018, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)Education Secretary Betsy DeVos testifies at a House Committee on Education and the Workforce, Tuesday, May 22, 2018, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos stirred up controversy earlier this week when she said it was up to schools to decide if an undocumented student or family member should be reported to authorities.

After prepared remarks to the House Education and the Workforce Committee on May 22, Ms. DeVos answered questions from committee members, including Rep. Adriano Espaillat, Democrat of New York. Mr. Espaillat, who used to be an undocumented immigrant himself, asked if principals and teachers should report undocumented students or their family members to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“Sir, I think that’s a school decision; it’s a local community decision,” Ms. DeVos said, adding that the United States is “a nation of laws and a compassionate people.”

“Our mission as Catholic educators goes beyond the law. Everyone is endowed with human rights, and that has nothing to do with legal status.”

Ms. DeVos alluded to Plyler v. Doe, insofar as the 1982 Supreme Court decision has protected undocumented students access to K-12 education. Yet Dale McDonald P.B.V.M., the director of public policy for the National Catholic Educational Association, said the decision is also interpreted to mean a child’s education should not be impeded. “Which means you don’t deal with ICE,” she told America. ICE has a policy to generally avoid conducting immigration enforcement operations in schools, places of worship and health care facilities.

“Our mission as Catholic educators goes beyond the law,” she said. “Everyone is endowed with human rights, and that has nothing to do with legal status.”

Sister McDonald said Catholic schools should welcome kids into a “Christian community that’s characterized with love and respect.” Catholic schools, she said, “foster an appreciation of diversity so that every child can reach his or her potential.”

“No one needs immigration papers to get into heaven. It’s home for all of us. We’re all trying to get there and to get our kids there.”

But the N.C.E.A. does not set a national policy in the matter. In each diocese, the local Catholic school system would have its own set of rules, under the authority of the local bishop. In the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, for example, schools do not inquire about the immigration status of students of family members.

Nevertheless, Sister McDonald noted there has been more fear in school communities, especially after the Trump administration announced it would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. DACA, an Obama administration policy, protects undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children from deportation and gives them permission to work.

“Kids were gone from school,” Sister McDonald said. “Families were afraid. Parents didn’t want to present themselves at times. We pray there’s a just resolution to help those people whose lives are in turmoil.”

Catholic schools observe the law but see things more from a faith perspective, she said. They see students as brothers and sisters and seek to create a more welcoming environment.

“No one needs immigration papers to get into heaven,” she said. “It’s home for all of us. We’re all trying to get there and to get our kids there.”

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JR Cosgrove
3 years 12 months ago

Should Catholic schools obey the law?

No, if the law is immoral such as slavery and abortion if it was coercive. One would have to make the case it was immoral. Ms. DeVos appears to be saying hands off.

We should obey our immigration laws and advocate for changes when prudent. The schools should not be put in this position. We need immigrants but legally.

Robert Lewis
3 years 12 months ago

A private school--ANY private school--is not responsible for doing the work of a government agency. If a Catholic school is asked by some government agency if it has enrolled children of the undocumented, the reply should be "We do not keep such records, and we ARE NOT GOING TO!"

Ellen B
3 years 12 months ago

LEGALLY, ICE can not enter without a search warrant.

Morally, is it moral to willingly assist in policies that make school children fearful. What would Jesus do? I think he was on the side of the immigrant.

Irene Baldwin
3 years 12 months ago

I think in general none of us have any obligation to do law enforcement agencies jobs for them. What is this, the old East Germany where citizens were expected to rat out their neighbors to the secret police?

Dolores Pap
3 years 12 months ago

Thank you, Irene. I couldn't imagine being a Catholic school administrator and working hand in glove with an administration as cruel as the present one..If they were to accede, they will have lost all credibility as an organization that cares for the most needy and powerless. It also reminds me of all the clergy in Nazi Germany who had no problem supporting Hitler..

Randal Agostini
3 years 12 months ago

When we came to America with our children, in order to register with a school we had to provide documentation that our children were inoculated against specific diseases - so that they would not be carriers within the school. I would presume that an undocumented child does not comply with any immigration regulation. What would happen if an undocumented child were to bring a deadly disease into a school? I would imagine that otherwise compassionate parents would seek retribution from the school in the event that there children were harmed.
We are always being asked to judge the symptom rather than the cause. In this case illegal parents are deliberately using their children to coerce compassion out of otherwise law abiding citizens. This is more of a question of rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar's and should be viewed in it's proper context.

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3 years 11 months ago

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Lisa Weber
3 years 11 months ago

Immigrants, documented or not, are part of our community and need education for their children and healthcare for the family. If we fail to care for all people in our communities, we diminish the community we live in.

Mrs. DeVos is part of the most cruel and hate-filled administration I have seen in this country. When she and her boss and her brother leave public life, our country will vastly improve.

StevenD Jasper.
3 years 11 months ago

Lisa, should we not follow any law we think is immoral?

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