Five former U.S. education secretaries have denounced the Trump administration’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. But the current secretary, Betsy DeVos, stayed silent this week.
That’s until an interview with CBS, posted Friday morning. Of the young people allowed to live and work without fear of deportation under DACA, DeVos says her “heart is with them.” The rest, she indicated, was up to lawmakers.
“I understand they’re here not by their own volition, and yet they are serious about pursuing their education and contributing to our American society and culture,” DeVos said. “And I would just encourage them to take courage and have courage.”
“We are a nation of compassion, and we are also a nation of laws,” she added.
Trump has tasked Congress with passing legislation on the issue.
DeVos’s muted comments only underscore the uncertainty that thousands of students, and teachers, are grappling with as the school year begins across the country.
In New York City, where school started Thursday, some teachers came armed with resources to offer families looking for legal advice. At KIPP, counselors raced to check in with alumni already protected by DACA and make sure they planned to meet a tight deadline for renewal applications.
In Memphis, where school has been in session for more than a month, Shelby County Schools has seen attendance by Hispanic students drop. “You can really feel that void,” one principal said.
And in Colorado, students from more than 20 Denver schools walked out of class in protest on Tuesday.
“I’m a little heartbroken,” one DACA recipient said. “I’m not sure what’s going to happen now.”