After the Supreme Court ruled, 36 years ago, that unauthorized children have a right to public education, some anti-immigrant officials tinkered with escape clauses, workarounds and other means of defying the law of the land. None went so far as Betsy De-Vos, the secretary of education, who has doubled down by actively encouraging such lawlessness, declaring that individual schools and localities can decide whether teachers or principals can report students living in the country illegally to immigration authorities. In fact, they cant.
In a recent appearance before Congress, Ms. DeVos suggested lawmakers enact legislation where there is confusion around this. The confusion, if any, is exclusively hers. In Plyler v. Doe, in 1982, the high court struck down laws in Texas authorizing local school districts to deny K-12 education to children who had entered the country illegally. Children living in the country without legal permission, as people in any ordinary sense of the term, are entitled to protection by the Constitutions 14th Amendment unless there is some countervailing state interest to justify discrimination against them, which the court said there is not.
Thats the rub for the Trump administration, which has shown by its actions, and words, that it doesnt regard children who entered the country illegally as people in any ordinary sense of the term. The president himself referred vaguely to some young immigrants perhaps gang members, perhaps others as animals. Days later, he added: They look so innocent. Theyre not innocent.