There’s been a lot of reaction from within the world of education to the Trump administration’s decision to end the federal program that allows younger undocumented immigrants, known as “dreamers,” to live in the United States without fear of being deported — and just about all of it has been negative. But one person hasn’t been heard from: U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
Teachers, union leaders, superintendents, college presidents, etc., etc., have slammed the move, and Denver students walked out of class in protest of the decision, which was announced Tuesday by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He said the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which has permitted nearly 800,000 young people to work and study in the United States, would end in six months, giving Congress a chance to address through legislation the program started in 2012 by President Barack Obama.
Obama signed an executive order establishing the program to help young people who had been brought to this country when they were children. States with the most DACA recipients are, in order: California, Texas, Florida and New York. Most DACA recipients are working or enrolled in school.
The Education Department did not respond to a query about DeVos’s position on the DACA decision.
In April, DeVos made a statement while she was visiting Florida that undocumented immigrants shouldn’t worry about the Trump administration’s support for educational opportunities. This is part of an interview she did with the Miami Herald at the time:
Q: We have a lot of immigrants in Miami, including a lot of undocumented immigrants. Florida is one of the states where undocumented immigrants can get in-state tuition at public universities. Is that something you support?
A: Well, as you well know [immigration] is an issue that’s been widely discussed within the administration and I yesterday referred to [Homeland Security Secretary] Gen. [John F.] Kelly’s comments about the fact that [undocumented] students should not be concerned. They should continue to focus on their studies and continue to pursue their educations. [Kelly recently said apprehending undocumented students is not a priority.]
The administration is very supportive of states setting their direction and I would say that would be consistent here, too.
DeVos was referring to comments made in March by Kelly, who was then head of the Department of Homeland Security and is now President Trump’s chief of staff. After talking with Democrats on Capitol Hill, Kelly told reporters who asked him about the dreamers, according to HuffPost:
I told them that I have a lot of things on my plate, a lot of criminals to apprehend and deport, that are here illegally, criminals beyond just the fact that they’re here illegally, and the least of my worries right now is anyone who falls under the general category of DACA. … I can guarantee you that we have a lot of very bad people to go after, and the least of my worries are undocumented illegal aliens who are living lives.
The superintendent of a Florida school district, who asked not to be named, said in an interview that DeVos said privately during a visit to the state this year that DACA would remain in place. The Education Department did not respond to a query about this.