As Congress Delays, Dreamers & American Children Pay the Price
A USA Today story, “20,000 DACA teachers at risk — and your kids could feel the fallout, too,” highlights the fact that DACA recipients work in many different jobs that help Americans – including teaching children in our nation’s classrooms. This is yet another reason why Congress must act with urgency to resolve Dreamers’ status. Excerpts below:
Growing up in metro Atlanta, Yehimi Adriana Cambrón Álvarez could see Cross Keys High School from her bedroom window.
Born in Morelia, in Mexico’s central Michoacán state, a place especially hard-hit by the country’s drug war, she was brought to De Kalb County, Ga., as a child. Cambrón grew up as an undocumented immigrant, one of an estimated 11.3 million. She graduated from Cross Keys and earned a studio art degree in 2014. She’s now deep into her third year teaching art at her alma mater.
“This has kind of been my dream, to come back and teach here,” Cambrón said on Tuesday as she prepped for classes. “This is a community that I grew up in — this is where I call home.”
Her well-laid plans could soon collapse: Last month, the Trump administration began winding down Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the 2012 Obama administration program designed to protect undocumented immigrants brought here as children. If lawmakers can’t fix DACA, Cambrón and thousands of teachers like her could face deportation when their work permits expire — in her case, that happens in February 2018.
Her students, she said, are “very aware of what’s happening” with the program. “It’s very real for them.” Cambrón added: “They’re just in shock that I could be taken away from the classroom like that.”
Nationwide, an estimated 20,000 DACA-eligible teachers — many of them possessing key Spanish-language skills that are in high demand — could be plucked from the classroom if the program is phased out.
Losing that many teachers would have a huge impact on kids, said Viridiana Carrizales of Teach For America, the elite teacher-preparation program that has begun advocating for the program. “We cannot afford to lose so many teachers and impact so many students,” she said. “Every time a student loses a teacher, that is a disruption in the student’s learning.”
Recent findings by the Economic Policy Institute, a D.C.-based think tank backed by labor unions, suggest that public schools are already in a teacher shortage bind:
…Michelle Mittelstadt, spokeswoman for the Migration Policy Institute, the D.C.-based think tank that calculated the 20,000 estimate, said few Americans grasp that DREAMers, as a group, are highly educated, having been schooled and acculturated in the U.S., in most cases.
“I think it’s not well-perceived that this is a population that has largely gone through school in the United States,” she said. “They are in the workforce, and they are in the workforce, in some cases, in middle-skill and higher-skilled jobs.”
…Carrizales, 29, who began working in TFA’s San Antonio office in 2012, had already been on the job for more than a year when TFA in 2013 created a new position focused exclusively on immigration issues and advocacy. She’s now TFA’s managing director for DACA. “It has been powerful to have our teachers who have DACA status in the classroom, because our young undocumented students can now see themselves in their teachers,” she said.
…Cambrón, who is also a muralist, said DACA has given Americans the chance to “see us officially and hear our stories and understand that if people are given the opportunity to pursue their passion and their careers and their dreams, then they will accomplish great things and make great contributions.”
But for her students, it’s a double-edged sword. They see the potential, but they also see the risk to their own family members, many of whom are undocumented. “They know,” she said. “They know and they feel that fear.”
She has been open about her status since the beginning. Following the recent uncertainty she has begun holding DACA staff training for her colleagues — and discussion groups for her students.
“You build relationships with the students. They open up to you,” she said. “I can’t imagine having to leave.”