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Letter to the House on Supplemental Appropriations Measure (H.R. 5230) and (H.R. 5272)

July 31, 2014

Dear Representative:

On behalf of the three million members of the National Education Association (NEA), and the students they serve, we urge you to VOTE NO on the House supplemental appropriations measure (H.R. 5230), and to instead ensure the safety and well-being of the impacted children, including child refugees, most of whom come from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.  We also urge you to VOTE NO on H.R. 5272, a bill aimed at preventing expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program which protects “DREAMers” who were brought to the United States as children.  Votes associated with these issues may be included in the NEA Legislative Report Card for the 113th Congress.

The House supplemental appropriations measure would only provide $659 million to address the border crisis at a time when we are in the midst of a human tragedy that underscores the need for comprehensive immigration reform. Based on the needs assessment of the impacted federal agencies, this is not adequate funding and support necessary to ensure the security and well-being of these child refugees — including access to education — and the myriad of challenges they face. These are children from Central America who 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.  Instead, H.R. 5230 would drastically accelerate the processing of child refugees to seven days, which raises alarming due process concerns.

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.

Likewise, the bill to prevent further expansion of DACA is misguided. DACA protects children from deportation by offering them temporary status so they may lawfully work as they endeavor to reach their full educational and career potential. Today’s vote, aimed at preventing the expansion or modification of DACA, would only serve to freeze our broken immigration system in place and inhibit our ability to build upon the successes of the program for countless children who are seeking opportunity and the chance to fully contribute to the country they know and cherish. These are children who are students or those who have graduated high school, have served in our military, and are leading law-abiding lives — children who we should all be proud to call our neighbors. 

The path forward for our country, and in the national debate on comprehensive immigration reform, should include everyone who is ready to contribute, grow and enrich our future — that includes the innocent children who DACA seeks to protect.

The United States is a nation of immigrants, and how we treat new immigrants reflects our commitment to the values that define us. NEA supports 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 you 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 you 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 you 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 see aspiring Americans in our classrooms, schools and communities every day. We urge you to VOTE NO on H.R. 5230 and ensure that these child refugees are treated humanely and with compassion and to VOTE NO on H.R. 5272 to ensure that innocent children are not separated from their families.

Sincerely,

Mary Kusler
Director of Government Relations