Tag: Immigration and Customs Enforcement

DeVos and the Harm to the Most Vulnerable to Come

Your editor will start with this one reality: That the Trump Administration’s proposed budget for the Department of Education and education programs, along with the rest of the 2018-2019 spending…

Your editor will start with this one reality: That the Trump Administration’s proposed budget for the Department of Education and education programs, along with the rest of the 2018-2019 spending plan,  is dead on arrival. Put simply, its budget is just a waste of good paper.

At the same time, while the Trump Administration’s budget will not gain passage, it deserves some consideration. Why? Because the specific program eliminations proposed exemplify the regime’s lack of concern for the futures of poor and minority children — and how their disdain will be made manifest even without congressional approval. While the programs will likely remain in place, the administration and its education boss, Betsy DeVos, have clearly shown how they will decimate them and ultimately, harm the children for which they are charged with defending.

As I already noted briefly yesterday, none of the proposed reductions and program shutdowns will pass congressional muster. This was demonstrated last year when House and Senate appropriators tossed out the Trump Administration’s 2017-2018 spending plan on which this year’s budget is mostly based. Roy Blunt, the Missouri Republican who chairs the Senate’s appropriations subcommittee on education, has likely killed the regime’s proposal to voucherize $500 million in Title 1 funding before it was printed on the page. Other programs such as Promise Neighborhoods, one of the Obama Administration’s signature initiatives and one based off Geoffrey Canada’s highly successful Harlem Children’s Zone, will likely stay alive.

The proposed elimination of the $65 million-a-year Native Hawaiian and Alaska Native education programs, which supports culturally-based curricula and instruction for two groups of Native children, won’t make it past either Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski or Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole, both of whom are strong defenders of those programs and are lead congressional appropriators. That a good number of Congressional Republicans need American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian votes to keep their jobs — especially in an midterm election year in which Republicans are likely to lose some of the 31 seats that incumbents are vacating so far and Trump’s unpopularity looms large — means that Native education programs will likely remain.

The administration’s proposal to gut TRIO, the collection of programs geared toward helping Black, Latino and Native children attain higher education as well as enter careers in areas such as science, have strong constituencies that Congressional Republicans are loathe to fight head on. That one of those programs, the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program, is named after the African-American astronaut who died in NASA’s botched launch of the space shuttle Challenger, makes it even harder for even the most hardcore deficit hawk to cut off. Meanwhile the presence of Teach For America and its alumni, along with Catholic Charities and other groups, will also probably ensure that Trump’s plan to shut down AmeriCorps, the national service program outside of the Department of Education’s purview, never becomes reality.

What makes the Trump plan even less likely to become reality is the inability of Congress itself to pass a full-year budget. Thanks to the one-month spending plan passed last Thursday, the federal government is still spending at levels set for the 2016-2017 fiscal year. The two-year budget outline passed last week by the Senate and House also lays out spending increases for education as well as for other programs that aren’t Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security (and theoretically, protected from reductions in spending increases and actual dollars), thus rendering the administration’s plan moot. Add in the Trump Administration’s overall lack of leverage with Congressional Republicans and it becomes clear that its spending plan is already in the trash.

But as your editor has noted, the budget does deserve some attention, and not because it has a snowball’s chance in Hades of passage. The budget deserves attention because it signals what the Trump Administration will do to the programs — and ultimately to poor and minority children — regardless of congressional action.

After all, while the House and Senate are charged with passing budgets and setting spending priorities for the federal government, the Occupant of the White House and his appointees actually run the day-to-day operations. Thanks to executive orders, administrative rulemaking, interpretation of statutes on the books, and staffing decisions (including the selection of temporary and permanent political appointments as well as civil servants who do the real work on the ground), the administration has plenty of leeway to do what it wants.

Over the past year, the Trump regime has made clear in word and deed that it is engaged in what can best be called low-grade ethnic cleansing. The move last September to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and put 780,000 undocumented immigrant children, young adults and teachers on the path to deportation, along with the various bans against entry of Muslims and others from several nations into this country, a proposed restrictions on legal immigration (which would advance the administration’s goals of a majority-White nation), and a proposal to replace food stamps with boxes of canned goods and less-than-fresh produce are just the most-visible examples of this bigotry-driven policymaking.

Other moves include efforts at the Department of Homeland Security’s ICE to deport even undocumented emigres who most would call good citizens in their communities; Customs and Border Patrol officers kicking water jugs left for migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border (and let them die of thirst); moves by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to not enforce consent decrees against police departments engaging in systematic brutality and corruption against poor and minority communities; and the move last month to allow states to implement work requirements for Medicaid recipients which make it easier to kick off the poorest Americans (including Latino communities as well as rural White people).

Overseeing the administration’s war against Black and Brown children on the education policy front is DeVos and her crew at the Department of Education. They have worked seriously and diligently at fulfilling the regime’s mission against the most-vulnerable.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions isn’t the only collaborator in harming children that reformers and others must fight.

Dropout Nation has already documented how DeVos and her crew have slowly rolled back the Obama Administration’s efforts to stem overuse of out-of-school suspensions and other forms of harsh school discipline. This has included issuing guidance that effectively stops Office for Civil Rights investigators from looking at three years of past complaints to prove that a district or other school operators has engaged in systematic overspending of Black, Latino, and Native children, as well as the hiring of Hans Bader, a vocal opponent of school discipline reform.

But an even bigger play came late last year when the agency gave buyouts to 16 investigators and other staff at OCR. [DeVos proposes to eliminate another 34 positions in 2018-2019.] By reducing staff levels, DeVos and her team are ensuring fewer investigations into civil rights violations of all types. After all, an agency can’t probe into complaints if there isn’t enough staff to do the work. Add in likely plans to toss out existing complaints by restricting the level of investigations that can be done, and suddenly, districts and school operators will know that they can abuse and neglect vulnerable children with impunity.

How this can play out can be seen in the Brentwood district in New York, which is the subject of a lawsuit filed last year by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of three undocumented immigrant youth. In that tort, the civil liberties outfit alleges that the district conspired with Suffolk County’s police department and ICE  in identifying, suspending, detaining and deporting undocumented immigrant students for allegedly being members of MS-13, allegations that immigration cops could not substantiate in court. An attempt to file a civil rights complaint with OCR against Brentwood alleging systematic discrimination would likely be shortcircuited, both because of the lack of bodies to investigate the claims and because investigators can’t look at previous complaints against the district.

What is happening at OCR is a preview of what will happen at other programs run by the agency — and the administration’s proposed budget makes that plain to see. Expect to hear more news about staff cuts and buyouts, especially in the offices that oversee Title I, Native education programs, and even TRIO. With fewer employees on board, especially in strategic positions critical to administrating those efforts, there will be delays in things getting done. Which will, in turn, affect real live children and young adults.

There are other moves DeVos and company can make in sustaining the administration’s war against Black and Brown children. This includes crafting administrative rules that can require districts and other school operators to cooperate with ICE in the latter’s efforts to deport undocumented immigrant children and their parents, as well as withhold funds to districts such as Chicago Public Schools which are refusing to cooperate with deportation attempts. It would not be a shock if folks at 1600 Pennsylvania and the Department of Justice are already pressing for such rulemaking to become reality.

Even those few budget proposals that may make sense in theory cannot be trusted, both because of the administration’s mission against minority communities as well as the incompetence within the regime. The proposed elimination of some 50 appointments (out of 150) can make sense, especially given the 27 “confidential assistants”, “special assistants” and other mandarins that are supposed to work directly for DeVos and her chief of staff, Josh Venable. But given the rather public failure to release on time the results from the latest edition of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, how can anyone trust that DeVos and her team knows which positions should be eliminated?

[Of course, many of those spots targeted, along with others such as the 14 on the Commission on Presidential Scholars (along with its executive director) have gone unfilled for months. Because no decent person wants to be associated with this regime.]

You can only trust that the Trump Administration will do nothing well, do things incompetently, act without integrity and operate with intent to harm the poor and minority communities it is supposed to serve. DeVos and the Department of Education are not exempted from this reality. And reformers need to step up and oppose the administration at every turn on this and other fronts.

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Protect Our Immigrant Children

As you already know, the Trump Administration has declared open war on undocumented immigrant children and their families, as well as the 5.9 million native-born children of emigres to this…

As you already know, the Trump Administration has declared open war on undocumented immigrant children and their families, as well as the 5.9 million native-born children of emigres to this country who fled economic despair, political oppression and violent crime. For the school reform movement, it is another reminder of why we must fight harder to oppose what the regime is doing (and plans to do) to our most-vulnerable children and their families.

President Donald Trump made clear his bigotry toward Latino children (as well as his contempt for the rule of law) last Friday night when when he pardoned former Maricopa County (Ariz.) Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The disgraced law enforcement official, whose long list of misdeeds includes failing to investigate alleged sexual assaults of undocumented emigres (including the molestation of 32 children), was convicted this month of contempt of court for violating a federal court order to stop discriminatory profiling of Latinos (including those native-born and undocumented who had no criminal record) to ascertain their citizenship status.

By pardoning Arpaio, Trump gives rogue cops and police departments the carte blanche to engage in criminal abuse of immigrants as well as blessed all kinds of police brutality and other violations of civil liberties of all Americans. Given the wide criticism he received over the last two weeks for failing to condemn White Supremacists who committed murder and mayhem earlier this month in Charlottesville, Va., the pardon is also a clear sign of where his administration stands when it comes to the federal role of protecting the civil rights of poor and minority communities.

Arpaio’s pardon comes on the heels of new reports that the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Custom Enforcement agents are engaging in all kinds of roguery.

Earlier this month, the American Civil Liberties Union revealed in a lawsuit on behalf of three undocumented immigrant youth that the federal agency is teaming up with police departments (including the 250 law enforcement agencies operated by traditional district schools) to pick up, detain, and ultimately, deport unaccompanied refugee children and other undocumented minors. The children, already vetted by other federal agencies, are supposed to be turned over to their parents or to the Department of Health and Human Services. Instead, ICE is violating federal law by placing them in detention centers halfway across the country from where they live, putting them in danger of being molested and assaulted.

In the particular case being represented by the ACLU, ICE teamed up with Suffolk County, N.Y., police officers to pick up three unaccompanied refugees from Honduras and El Salvador attending high school in New York’s Brentwood district for allegedly being members of the MS-13 gang. ICE agents and Suffolk County cops have proclaimed in court that the children admitted gang affiliation even though they have been unable to provide any physical evidence or corroboration.The Brentwood district allegedly conspired with ICE and Suffolk County cops by suspending students who were suspiciously picked up for deportation days later.

Through ICE, the Trump Administration has attempted to pry data from districts in order to conduct their operations as well as standing outside schools so they can pick up kids and parents entering schoolhouse doors. Such data is prohibited from being disclosed to ICE by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, the law governing the release of school data, but district staffers aren’t always aware of this. As a result of the tactics, traditional districts are issuing guidance to school leaders and others to not release any data.

Meanwhile the Trump Administration has taken particular aim at “border children” from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala who fled to this country to escape violence. Two weeks ago, Homeland Security canceled the Central American Minors Parole, which allowed 3,000 such kids to remain in the country. This will likely lead to those kids, some as young as 11, to be deported, and shortchanging them of schooling they need and deserve. The move by ICE this month to deport Lizandro Claros-Saravia, who was set to attend Louisberg College on a partial athletic scholarship, shows that collegians who are destined to contribute greatly to America’s economy and society, will also be shown the door.

Things will likely get worse for immigrant children will likely in the next few months if the Trump Administration moves to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the initiative started under the Obama Administration to exempt emigres brought to the country as children from deportation. Some 760,000 children and young adults ages nine and older are protected under DACA. This includes 100 Teach for America recruits who are working in the nation’s traditional public and public charter schools.

 If Trump goes ahead and ends DACA, as many expect, children in elementary, secondary, and schools of higher education will be tossed out of the country when they should be learning and ultimately becoming the nation’s future leaders and builders of its economy. It also means that teachers who are improving the quality of education for poor and minority children will also end up being deported, harming the futures of the children they serve.

As it is, the Trump Administration has already begun targeting DACA emigres for deportation. This has resulted in even more allegations of roguery by ICE agents. In the case of Riccy Enriquez Perdom, who was briefly detained last week and then released after public outcry, ICE agents allegedly told her that her DACA status had expired even though it had been renewed seven months ago.

The consequences for children of undocumented emigres and those kids who are undocumented themselves can already be seen in our schools. As the New Yorker detailed back in March, children are skipping school out of fear that their parents and themselves may end up detained and deported, or, in the case of native-born children, end up in the nation’s child welfare systems. Those kids whose parents are rounded for deportation suffer dramatically; on average, the household of those children, whose parents were working, paying taxes, and contributing to communities, declined by 50 percent, according to a 2014 study by Robert Warren and Donald Kerwin of the Center for Migration Studies.

It is almost impossible for children to learn and gain the knowledge they need for brighter futures if they are in conditions of instability and poverty caused by government action.

That many undocumented immigrant children (along with their families) came to this country to find safety, political oppression and economic stability makes the efforts of Trump Administration to get rid of them even crueler than it first appears. Given that they are undocumented because of the nation’s broken immigration system (whose quotas are a legacy of the racial bigotry against earlier generations of Latinos, Jews, Irish and Chinese emigres), and that most have never committed a felony, the administration’s effort is  arbitrary, capricious, and unconscionable.

But the problem for undocumented immigrant youth extends beyond losing out on teaching and learning. Once picked up for deportation, a child is ensnared in an overwhelmed immigration court system that offers them no opportunities for due process.

The end of the day at Albertville Middle School. Statistics say the student body is 30% latino, but teachers think its higher. Many students were taken out of school when Alabama’s immigration laws were passed.

Judges aren’t required to give an undocumented immigrant child a lawyer who help them obtain a fair trial; 34 percent of the 56,663 children in immigration court in the 2013-2014 fiscal year had no lawyer representing them. When kids aren’t represented by lawyers, they are more-likely to be deported or placed in detention than those who aren’t; 68 percent of undocumented immigrant children without lawyers were ordered out of the country in 2013-2014, compared to just 6.1 percent of those with lawyers.

Even worse is what can happen to those children if they detained end up in detention centers (prisons and jails) in which sexual and other forms of criminal abuse is rampant. The likelihood of those abuses being addressed or even being reported is abysmally low. Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General investigated a mere 570 of the 33,126 allegations of abuse lodged by undocumented emigres in detention centers between 2010 and 2016, according to Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement. Given that ICE is now looking to destroy documentation of such complaints, the likelihood of even more abuse is greater than ever.

This discrimination against undocumented immigrant children and native-born progeny of undocumented Americans (as well as against their families) is that it is based on an intellectually indefensible and absolutely immoral premise: That immigrants are a scourge to the nation. This thinking, almost as old as the racialism that is America’s Original Sin (and has often intertwined with racism to detrimental effect on generations of poor and minority children), continues to be embraced by the Trump Administration, many Congressional Republican leaders, and their supporters despite the overwhelming evidence that immigrants contribute greatly to this country’s economy and society. [The fact that Trump, along with nearly all of his staffers, are the descendants of emigres of the last two centuries, makes their nativism hypocritical.]

The good news is that some reformers have already stepped out to demand that the Trump Administration keep DACA in place. This includes Chiefs for Change, which issued a public call today asking for retain protections for undocumented immigrant children, as well as former U.S. Secretary of Education John King (who called out the administration in a speech last week to a group of school leaders. But reformers can do more.

One step lies in working with districts and school operators to help them give sanctuary to the undocumented. Districts such as Chicago have already taken these steps, refusing to cooperate with ICE and other law enforcement agencies in their deportation efforts. But those districts need help. The movement can reach out to immigration reform groups and others to develop ways to help those families evade deportation; this includes running bus services that can transport children from homes to schools without endangering their families, as well as work with community groups such as San Francisco’s Arriba Juntos to provide schooling to those in fear of appearing in schools.

Reformers can also offer their experience on the school data front to help immigration reform activists hold ICE and the federal government responsible. This includes advocating alongside immigration reform activists to oppose destruction of  records and complaints of abuse lodged by undocumented immigrants in detention center.

The longer-term step starts with supporting immigration reform efforts on overhauling the nation’s immigration system. Certainly reformers can’t help in directly crafting policy. But they can help give political support by simply signing on to letters, teaming up on advocacy efforts that advance both immigration and school reform.

Meanwhile school reformers can work on eliminating the presence of police officers in schools. Besides the documented evidence that the presence of law enforces leads to overuse of harsh school discipline and exacerbates the school-to-prison pipeline, they can also end up being used by ICE as tools to identify and deport undocumented immigrant children and their families. As a result, getting cops out of schools helps improve school cultures for all children.

The Trump Administration has once again made clear its policy agenda of harming the futures of poor and minority children. As reformers, we must make sure it fails in its immoral goal.

Featured photo courtesy of Chip Somodevilla.

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