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DACAmented educators and students to Congress: Pass the Dream Act now

NEA and AFT continue to urge Congress to fight for Dreamers and their families


WASHINGTON - October 25, 2017 -

DACAmented educators and students today joined House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM), Rep. Judy Chu as well as leaders from the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, to highlight the impact of the White House’s decision to rescind DACA. DACAmented educators and students Hugo Arreola, Lee-Ann Graham, and Vicente Rodriguez also urged Congress to fight for Dreamers and pass the bipartisan Dream Act of 2017.

“Dreamers and DACA recipients — aspiring young Americans, our neighbors, our students, and, yes, 20,000 of our colleagues in education – deserve the certainty and protections the Dream Act provides,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “We will continue to raise our voices in a collective chorus to defend and protect them. It’s time to pass the Dream Act of 2017.”

Ninety seven percent of DACA recipients are currently employed or enrolled in school according to a recent survey. More than a third of Dreamers are between the ages of 16 and 20. A Center for American Progress analysis, based on a survey of more than 3,000 DACA recipients in 46 states, found that 45 percent of them are in school, and of those who are in school, 72 percent are pursuing a bachelor’s degree or higher.

“Young, aspiring Americans contributing to our culture and economy should not be targeted for deportation,” said AFT Executive Vice President Mary Cathryn Ricker. “And yet, the Trump administration’s decision to rescind DACA protections for hundreds of thousands of students, teachers, nurses and other members of our communities introduces that threat and puts immigrant communities in a constant state of fear. The AFT will do everything to support and protect our students, our colleagues, our neighbors—regardless of their immigration status and we will stand and advocate alongside all our partners just as committed.”

The decision to end DACA is jeopardizing the lives and futures of the 800,000 participants in the program, including 20,000 educators working with students in our nation’s public schools today. Many are consumed by stress and anxiety about what the future holds for them, their families, and their students as well.

“As a DACAmented educator and a student, I see the fear in the students in my school as a result of the White House’s decision to rescind DACA,” said Hugo Arreola, a DACAmented educator from Phoenix, Arizona. “There is a lot of confusion and panic because we do not know what the future holds. We feel exposed. The Dream Act will go a long way towards providing Dreamers the certainty we deserve as we continue to contribute to the country we call home. We are Americans in every way except for our immigration status. It’s time for Congress to permanently fix that.”

“It is imperative to understand that there are real and different life experiences for DACA recipients, just as there are for Americans,” said Lee-Ann Graham, a DACAmented student and paraprofessional from New York. “Advocating for the rights of immigrants has been a priority for myself well before President Trump's election and latest actions. Much of the history of the United States is a history of immigrants coming to this country and defeating overwhelming conditions and tyrannical powers. And so we have persevered. It has been my mission to advocate on behalf of DACA students and undocumented immigrants so they don’t feel isolated, afraid or unsure about their futures. We cannot allow the lives of these individuals to be upended just to score political points. I urge Congress to take immediate action and pass the Dream Act of 2017.”

“My dream is to become a teacher,” said Vicente Rodriguez, a DACAmented student and educator from Inland Empire, California. “For the past seven years, I’ve worked hard toward this goal, taking courses at a community college while working minimum wage jobs to cover tuition and support my family. The day President Trump rescinded DACA, it seemed like my dream of becoming a teacher was being yanked out from under me. I have less than two years left with DACA and I will not surrender—I’ve worked too hard, come too far, and sacrificed too much to give up now. I will continue to fight for the undocumented. Congress: it’s time you fight for us.”

The National Education Association’s three million members and the 50 million students they serve are in the middle of a proactive sustained grassroots campaign to urge Congress to pass the Dream Act of 2017.

Thus far, members of NEA and the public have taken nearly 60,000 actions—calls, emails, postcards, and meetings—into Congressional offices since the campaign’s inception. In addition, NEA launched a mass migration of messages to Congress on the wings of digital butterfly postcards. Butterflies are becoming a recognizable symbol of the beauty of migration and signify transformation and freedom. This art aims to substitute images and words of fear with visions of our shared humanity.

Visit this link to learn more about the butterfly campaign and to send a postcard to Congress. Click this NEA link about how you can offer additional support to Dreamers.

Adding to those efforts, the American Federation of Teachers is also putting skin in the game. This week, the AFT joined the NAACPs litigation efforts, as plaintiffs challenging the administrations termination of DACA. The AFT is equipping teachers with the advocacy tools, classroom resources and the immigration knowledge they need to protect and fight for undocumented educators and students: we’ve created guides “Know Your Rights”, “Deportation Defense” and an “Educator’s Guide” to help parents, students and teachers navigate any legal actions they may confront. AFT’s Share My Lesson online resource hub (already used by more than 1.2 million educators) offers a collection of free lesson plans to help teachers educate all students about immigration and create inclusive school communities. Our members have sent 13,000 letters to their representatives on the Hill, and tomorrow at 6:00pm, we are hosting a Webinar “Rights of Immigrant Students Post-DACA: What Educators Need to Know. And through our partnership with WETA, Colorin Colorado, we’ve curated a collection of resources to address the needs of immigrant children who also happen to be ELLs. Colorin Colorado remains the most widely accessed site for educators of English Language Learners.

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Keep up with the conversation at #DreamAct

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The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing more than 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers. Learn more at www.nea.org.