This guest blog post comes from Jonah Edelman, co-founder and CEO of Stand for Children.
Today 750,000 of our nation’s most promising young adults are living under the threat of deportation. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, or DACA, currently protects these law-abiding young people, brought to the country as children. But the future of DACA is now in doubt, and, without it, DREAMers could be subject to immediate deportation. These DREAMers are students, graduates, and unknown numbers—at least hundreds and more likely thousands—are teachers.
AASA and more than 2,000 education leaders from across the country have signed on to a letter calling on Congress to take immediate action to extend legal protections to these young adults. Students need these protections to realize their potential and educators need them to continue teaching in our classrooms.
District leaders are speaking out now because they can’t afford to lose teachers like Alexis Torres, who teaches history in the Spring Branch, Texas school district. Torres is exactly the kind of teacher schools work desperately to recruit—bilingual and culturally aware in a school where nearly half of students lack fluency in English. At 23, he’s lived in the United States since he was 5. But absent a protection from deportation, he could be removed at any time.
Fellow Texan Mayte Lara Ibarra managed to rise to become her high school’s valedictorian with a 4.5 GPA. She’s now enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin, but the fear of deportation remains a constant. “My whole life I’ve lived with the conversation of, ‘OK what’s going to happen if like your dad or I get deported,’” she told a local TV station.
Young people like Ms. Ibarra and Mr. Torres have played by the rules, working hard to better themselves, support their families, and make their communities stronger.
Superintendent Tom Boasberg’s district in Denver was one of the first to hire teachers under DACA. “We hired them because they are excellent teachers who make our kids and our schools better,” Boasberg said. “To deport talented teachers and students in whom we have invested so much, who have so much to give back to our community, and who are so much a part of our community would be a catastrophic loss."
The stories and success of DREAMers define what it means to live the American dream and removing them would hurt, not benefit, our schools and our nation.
That’s why a growing number education leaders are joining our call for a lasting solution, including the superintendents of some of the largest school districts; the president of a national teachers union; leaders of top public charter school networks and crucial nonprofits; and principals and teacher leaders.
AASA is leading the way as part of this extraordinary alliance of the nation’s leading educators coming together to protect these DREAMers.
Today, we are asking you to join us by signing the petition at sign.protectdreamers.org.
By taking action together, we can create conditions in which our students and teachers thrive, rather than relegate them to living in fear.
For more information about the petition for DREAMer protections and the full list of signatories, please visit protectdreamers.org.
- Clearly communicate that our schools are welcoming to everyone. Work with your school board to pass a resolution affirming schools as welcoming places of learning for all students, distancing the schools from enforcement actions that separate families. Some districts have even declared that they are ICE-free zones/sanctuary schools and have taken the public position that they will not permit entry to law enforcement absent a judicial order.
- Identify a point person who can serve as the immigration resource advocate in the district and keep good documentation of any encounters. Encourage the same for each campus.
- Determine a process for approving documents to ensure all materials distributed to teachers, support staff, students, families and the community are up-to-date and authored by reputable sources.
- Inform students and their families of their rights by distributing “know your rights” materials (or other approved materials) in appropriate languages to stakeholders so they are informed about what to do if a raid occurs or an individual is detained.
- Maintain a list of approved resources, such as the names of social workers, pro bono attorneys and local immigration advocates and organizations, that can be shared with your students and their families.
- Partner with a pro bono attorney, legal aid organization or immigrant rights organization to schedule a “know your rights” workshop on campuses to inform students and families about their rights.
- Identify or create a local immigration raid rapid response team. These teams usually consist of attorneys, media personnel and community leaders who may be able to provide support. If there is a local response team, assign a point person for communication on the district staff.
- Create a process for what to do if a parent, sibling or student has been detained. This should include providing a safe place for students to wait if their parent/guardian is unable to take them home. Double-check emergency contact info and ensure that you have multiple phone numbers on hand for relatives/guardians in case a student's emergency contact is detained, be prepared to issue a statement condemning raids and calling for the immediate release of students, and consider alternate pickup and drop-off arrangements in case an ICE checkpoint is established near your school.
- Coordinate with other agencies in the community as needed, particularly child protective services if the chance of foster care is increased during this time.
- Provide counseling for students who have had a family member detained by ICE.
- Train and educate guidance counselors and key staff to help mentor or guide students who are impacted by immigration, including undocumented students applying to college.
The following links provide additional national resources from immigration experts:
- AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION: Know Your Rights Videos
- IMMIGRANT LEGAL RESOURCE CENTER: DACA Current Status and Options
- IMMIGRATION ADVOCATES NETWORK: Legal Services Directory
- National directory of more than 950 free or low-cost nonprofit immigration legal services providers in all 50 states.
- UNITED WE DREAM: Deportation Defense Card
- Are you prepared if Immigration & Customs Enforcement agents approach you? Download your Deportation Defense Card to Know Your Rights. - English, Spanish, Chinese and Korean
- Hotline for learning rights and reporting right violations: 1-844-363-1423
- NATIONAL EDUCATION ASSOCIATION: Educator Resources
- NATIONAL IMMIGRATION LAW CENTER: Draft Resolution Language
- The U.S. Department of Education has a page dedicated to information and resources for immigrant, refugee, asylee students and families.
- GUIDE: Supporting Undocumented Youth in Secondary and Postsecondary Settings (Oct 2015)
- GUIDE: Early Learning Programs, Elementary Schools, and Educators (Jan 2017)
- Fact Sheet for Families and School Staff: Limitations on DHS Immigration Enforcement Actions at Sensitive Locations (Nov 2015)
- In general, DHS’s 2011 prioritization memo explained that immigration enforcement actions may not occur at or in “sensitive locations.” These locations include: schools, such as known and licensed daycares, pre-schools and other early learning programs; primary schools; secondary schools; post-secondary schools up to and including colleges and universities; as well as scholastic or education-related activities or events, and school bus stops that are marked and/or known to the officer, during periods when school children are present at the stop.
- If you believe enforcement action has taken place that is inconsistent with this guidance, file a complaint on the DHS website at https://www.dhs.gov/, the CBP website at https://www.cbp.gov/, or ICE website at https://www.ice.gov/.
- You may contact ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) through the Detention Reporting and Information Line at (888)351-4024 or through the ERO information email address at ERO.INFO@ice.dhs.gov, also available at https://www.ice.gov/webform/ero-contact-form. The Civil Liberties Division of the ICE Office of Diversity and Civil Rights may be contacted at (202)732-0092 or ICE.Civil.Liberties@ice.dhs.gov.
- You may contact the CBP Information Center to file a complaint or compliment via phone at 1-877-227-5511, or submit an email through the website at https://help.cbp.gov.