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Letter to the Senate urging action to keep children safe

July 10, 2014

Dear Senator:

On behalf of the three million members of the National Education Association and the students they serve, we urge you to take action to ensure the safety and well-being of America’s children, including those who immigrated here—recently as well as long ago. Fixing our broken immigration system is a top priority for educators because it has a profound impact on our students and their families.

We are in the midst of a human tragedy that underscores the need for comprehensive immigration reform. Children from Central America are fleeing violence and coming to the United States in search of safety. We should respond to them with our finest ideals, not our worst fears. America’s own laws as well as international standards require us to make sure the best interests of children are paramount, that those in genuine need of safe haven do not get sent back to the violence they escaped, and that all those who claim to need protection have a full and fair proceeding—with legal representation—before a life-or-death decision is made.

We must treat these children humanely, with dignity. Those who are fleeing violence need protection. We must keep the safety and security of the children at the forefront of our minds. Instead of imprisoning them in detention centers while they are in the United States, we should release them to families and community groups who can care for them and ensure they follow through with their court proceedings. 

Unfortunately, some are exploiting child refugees to score political points and justify inaction on immigration reform. Not only are they demanding that we treat eight-year-old refugees as criminals, they are calling for the deportation of students brought here as children—young people who are Americans in every regard except for paperwork.  

The United States is a nation of immigrants, and how we treat new immigrants reflects our commitment to the values that define us. NEA continues to press the House to support common-sense immigration reform that:

  • Creates a realistic path to citizenship for aspiring Americans who call the United States home. Our broken immigration system is draining America of the talent and resources this nation needs to compete in the global economy of the 21st century. We urge all lawmakers to take into consideration the many ways in which aspiring Americans contribute to our country and help strengthen our economy.
  • Preserves the unity of families, traditional and nontraditional. Family unity plays a critical role in student success. We urge all lawmakers to consider what it means to be a child living in fear that our nation’s immigration policies will break up your family, forcing you to choose between your country and your loved ones—mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers.
  • Creates an expedited path to citizenship for students brought to the United States as children. Such students entered this country through no fault of their own. We urge all lawmakers to support the DREAM Act to provide an expedited path to citizenship for those who graduate from high school or earn a GED and an expedited path to citizenship on a par with the DREAM Act for our littlest aspiring Americans—children too young to have graduated from high school. 

As educators, we encounter aspiring Americans in our classrooms and schools every day. For the sake of our students and their families, we urge action now—not later—to make comprehensive immigration reform a reality at last.

Sincerely,

Mary Kusler
irector, Government Relations