Dear Betsy, Our Undocumented Students Deserve Better

U.S. Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, has had her share of negative attention in the media. The most recent media frenzy is around her comments made surrounding the responsibilities school hold over undocumented students. In her recent comments to Congress, Betsy DeVos stated that schools should be able to decide whether or not to report undocumented students to immigration officials. This suggestion by the Education Secretary would shift this power to principals and teachers and she masked it by stating it would be a “community decision.”

Much to her surprise, DeVos was corrected by a member of the committee and was reminded of the fact that immigration law is under federal jurisdiction and is not governed by municipalities.

It seems as though Secretary DeVos needs a history lesson on the Supreme Court decision Plyler vs. Doe (1982). According to the American Immigration Council, Plyler decision ensures the protected rights of students across the United States, regardless of their immigration status. What Secretary DeVos needs to understand is that if schools were to follow her misguided suggestions, they would be violating the constitutional rights of undocumented students in the United States. It’s troubling to think that the Secretary of Education in the United States fails to understand the basic civil rights of undocumented students, they deserve better.

Reflecting on this issue personally, school was always a place where I felt safe and comfortable. My teachers and family supported my academic development by constantly reminding me how capable and smart I was. I now try to model this same sentiment for my students. I have young men and women in my classroom every day who lack legal status within the United States, and there hasn’t been a time where they have been called out by our school administration for this. Instead, our school offers extra support and is able to fill in the gaps for the support that the federal government does not offer our students. For example, we have a club on campus dedicated to fundraising and providing scholarships for our undocumented seniors. There isn’t a teacher at our school that would deny these students the right to the excellent education they deserve and are capable of excelling in. This is what we’ve been called to do as educators, and DeVos needs a reminder of the constitutional protections every single student, regardless of immigration status, has within the U.S.


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Daniela Felix

Daniela Felix

Daniela is a first generation college student who is heavily involved in education in her home district, West Contra Costa Unified. After becoming a mother at a young age, Daniela’s passion for education justice only intensified and she began to fight for an equitable education for all children, regardless of background or zip code. Daniela played a key role in organizing parents with the California Charter Schools Association and is a firm believer in school choice for all families. She is currently a Lead Organizer with Students for Education Reform, organizing college students around education justice issues in her home district. She was recently accepted into Teach for America and plans to continue impacting the lives of children in her hometown of Richmond, CA as a high school social studies teacher. Daniela is a UC Berkeley senior pursuing her B.A. in Legal Studies and Education along with her 4 year old daughter and husband. Daniela is a firm believer in that every single child is capable of meeting high expectations if given the correct support. Daniela hopes to be a provider of that support.

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