WASHINGTON — Today, the U.S. House of Representatives took a bold step toward transforming the nation’s immigration system, approving the Dream Act of 2021 (H.R. 6) and the Farm Workforce Modernization Act (H.R. 1603), and paving the way to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants, including an estimated 15,000 DACAmented educators, as well as Temporary Protective Status (TPS) holders and farmworkers. The National Education Association, on behalf of its more than 3 million members and their 50-plus million students, supports both bills.
“Most of us, whatever our race, gender, or ZIP code, believe that America, our families and neighborhoods are stronger, safer, and healthier when we come together to overcome shared challenges and develop collective solutions,” said NEA President Becky Pringle. Immigrant families have the tenacity and courage to move here seeking a better life. Our strength as a nation comes from this diversity.”
Among other things, the Dream Act would provide a 13-year path to citizenship for more than 4 million undocumented immigrants, including Dreamers brought to the United States when they were 18 or younger and recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) continuously in the United States since Jan. 1, 2021. Likewise, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act would help an additional 2.4 million undocumented farmworkers, as well as their spouses and minor children, ensuring those children will no longer have to worry that their parents might not come home from work.
“The bills that the U.S. House of Representatives approved today will go a long way toward transforming our federal immigration system and building a more just system that is people-centered, treats immigrants with fairness, unites families, and welcomes immigrants as new Americans. These measures are humane, sensible and fair. They benefit everyone—students, educators, and our communities. And they embody the first three words of the preamble to the U.S. Constitution: ‘We the people.’”
The Dream Act, in particular, would provide much-needed protection to an estimated 15,000 DACAmented educators who have sustained student learning during the pandemic, including Homar Rodriguez, a DACAmented physical education teacher, coach and mentor in North Carolina, and Angelica Reyes, a DACAmented teacher in California.
DACA has allowed both to pursue their dreams and to continue to teach during the COVID-19 pandemic. For Angelica, DACA offered a pathway to use the knowledge and skills gained in university as an educator and role model in her community. Similarly, DACA enabled Homar to pursue his dream. Still, he has lived in fear for most of his life, since arriving in the U.S. in the arms of his mother. Teaching under COVID has doubled his fears. He is two months from earning his master’s degree and, for the first time since the start of the pandemic, he was able to see his students in person last week.
“The passage of these immigration bills means hope and stability for my family and countless others,” said Angelica Reyes. “The thought of being uprooted from the only land I call home, torn from my family, my students and the people who contributed to my development is devastating. It is unnatural to imagine a life where I cannot support, love and hug those most important to me. This bill would eliminate the anxiety and despair that has been crippling at times and offers us the opportunity to emerge from the shadows and continue enriching our communities.”
“Passing permanent protection for Dreamers like me would mean our dreams will no longer remain a fantasy but rather an obtainable reality. I am loving my current job as an educator, mentor, and coach. I want to be a principal, director, or teacher for the rest of my days,” said Homar Rodriguez.
“Angelica and Homar, like so many immigrants, contribute to our success,” said Becky Pringle. “In return, America must contribute to their success. This means celebrating our differences and joining together to pass these bills so everyone can live into their magnificent brilliance. And we must bring humanity to our immigration process by honoring the courage and commitment of those who would do anything to make a brighter future.
“That the House of Representatives swiftly approved the two bills is a testament to educators, students and advocates who have mobilized to demand the future we deserve, a future that works for all of us—without exception. We now call on the U.S. Senate to immediately take up and pass these important bills.
“All of us will stand to benefit from the passage of these bills in the U.S. Senate. Our families cannot continue to wait. Our students and educators cannot continue to wait. We are fighting for an America where We the People includes all of us,” concluded Pringle.
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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.