Taking Action to Defend DREAMers

Today, the Trump administration stripped away protections for Dreamers—young Americans brought to this country as children. The announcement, which many of us had long feared, will end DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). The result is that soon, thousands of young immigrants will face the possibility of deportation from the only country they know unless Congress takes swift action.

These young Americans are not some faceless other. They are our co-workers, our students, our neighbors, our children’s teachers, and our friends.

The news is heartbreaking, for me and for so many people in our schools. But it will not demoralize us, and it certainly will not stop us. On the contrary, it must move us to greater, stronger action to create lasting protections for Dreamers.

The administration’s action will end a policy implemented by the Obama Administration in 2012. Under this program, hundreds of thousands of DREAMers were protected from deportation as long as they stayed in school, went on to college or joined the military, followed the law, and contributed to the workforce after graduation.

The result is that our schools, colleges, and workplaces are blessed with young people who do what immigrants normally do—contribute to our cities and our economy, strengthening our communities and our country. Many DACA recipients have taken jobs giving back to their communities, often as teachers and other school employees. The result is that schools face a double hit—to students and alumni, and to staff.

Educator Perspectives

At International High School in Oakland, two staff members are Dreamers, and last night, like so many educators, principal Carmelita Reyes was gearing up for the possibility of this announcement today.

“It’s going to feel devastating,” she said. “You have this sick pit in your stomach.”

Principal Reyes said that if the nation understood the contribution the Dreamers make, it would not tolerate their removal.

“These are people that we trust with our children,” she said. “They are great role models and they help our children learn. They are the people we want in front of our children.”

At Lighthouse Community Public Schools, Head of School Yanira Canizales offered thoughts aimed directly at the Dreamers.

“You are our students, our family our young leaders in our community,” she said. “Our schools are your home. … Like you, I was brought to this country by my parents. I was undocumented, given the opportunity to be protected and to contribute to my home away from home.  All our young people deserve to belong and to unlock their agency. Our schools will continue to be your sanctuaries and places where you shine. Your educators are with you.”

Educators from throughout the area and state feel the same passion. “The fact that those in power want our DREAMers to be taken away from us is an incredible injustice,” United Teachers of Richmond president Demetrio Gonzalez wrote to teachers there. “As educators and social justice advocates, we have to stand against these injustices. We cannot let any of our students, fellow teachers, or community members be taken away because of poor policies, ignorance, and hate.”

Garfield Elementary’s Community Schools Manager Hassan Brown believes that this decision is another discouraging move on the part of our presidential administration.

“Our students and families arrive to school each day filled with enthusiasm and hope. Let’s stand on the right side of history and not defer their dreams. The repeal of DACA will serve as a further indictment that our current administration does not stand with the community of students that we serve and their families.”

Corrie Sands of Aspen Valley Prep in Fresno is very worried.

“As a parent, a community member and a school leader, it deeply concerns me that the rights of the young people protected by DACA are threatened by the President. This is one of our most vulnerable groups of students and young adults and they deserve the best education and protection our country has to offer.

I mentored a young woman who was put in this tentative position by her family. She is one of the hardest working, determined individuals I’ve ever known. She is a credit to our country, and deserves to stay and contribute alongside her peers who are citizens.”

For so many educators, today’s developments produced not despair, but an even stronger desire to act to protect the Dreamers. As Reyes put it, “Oakland will fight back.”

We can all learn from them—and take action.

Taking Action for the DREAMers

The battle to support Dreamers will be fought in the U.S. Congress, where legislation that would provide lasting protections is in motion. Please contact your member of Congress, and let him or her know that you are among the vast majority of American voters – 78 percent – who support giving DREAMers the opportunity they deserve. Our friends at Stand for Children have made it easy to contact your member of Congress by email, phone or postal mail, and our friends at PICO have a great calling script and dialing instructions for phone calls.  

And if you want more information, you can start with these resources.

Today is a deeply sad day for many of us. But I am so proud of the way our schools are reaffirming their commitment to building diverse, welcoming, and safe spaces—and our work is just beginning. Let’s follow the lead of teachers and principals like Carmelita Reyes and fight to protect our Dreamer neighbors, classmates, teachers, and friends.

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