Remarks before Congress, made by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, have stirred concern that immigration agents may be targeting migrant children in school, Newsradio 1200 WOAI reports.
"Her ignorance is astounding," Clay Robison, spokesman for the Texas State Teachers Association, says. "They would be violating the Constitution and a Supreme Court order that came out of Texas that prohibits school districts from inquiring about the immigration status of school children."
In Plyler v. Doe, the Justices wrote that schools are obligated to provide an education to students, regardless of their immigration status. The case revolved around a revision to Texas education laws in 1975 that allowed the state to withhold funding from school districts for educating children of "illegal aliens."
Speaking before the House Committee on Education and Workforce, Secretary DeVos was asked her opinion on the nation's immigration laws and how they applied in public schools.
"Sir, I think that's a school decision," DeVos said. "That's a local community decision."
Texas State Rep. Diego Bernal, Vice Chair of the House Public Education Committee, is worried that the Secretary's comments will have a ripple effect through Hispanic communities.
"It could be that she just has no clue or it could be that she could be trying to dog-whistle something else," he says. "The bottom line is that, if you want to see how the immigration rhetoric, go no further than your local elementary school."
Bernal (D-San Antonio) says that, by suggesting that ICE could go into schools, it forces families back into the shadows at a time when they should feel safe in the classroom.
Robison says the entire situation is embarrassing.
"If I were an ICE officer, I would be embarrassed to come to a school and detain a school child. Betsy DeVos is apparently immune from embarrassment."