More than 1,500 education leaders, who together serve millions of America’s students, joined in a petition released Thursday requesting continued protection from deportation for “DREAMers,” young people brought to this country as children.
Currently, such law-abiding young people are covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Policy, or DACA. With the change of administrations, the future of policy is now in doubt, and without it, students, teachers and others could be subject to immediate deportation.
The education leaders calling for an urgent solution include the heads of the Houston, Philadelphia, Denver, Dallas, Indianapolis, Nashville, Newark, Shelby County (Memphis), San Jose, Guilford County (Greensboro, NC), Tulsa, Oklahoma City, and Oakland public schools. The list of signatories also includes the leaders of nonprofits such as Teach For America and leading educator support organization ASCD; the American Federation of Teachers as well as local teachers’ unions; and charter school organizations such as KIPP, YES Prep in Houston, Noble Network in Chicago, Achievement First in New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, and IDEA in Texas.
DACA beneficiaries typically came to the United States as children through no choice of their own. They are contributing to the strength of local communities and economies, as students or as employees, often as bilingual teachers who graduated from our colleges and now fill a crucial need in our education system.
Key education leaders offered statements of support:
"I've been fortunate to live the American Dream myself. As the son of blue collar first generation Americans, I didn't speak English until I started school. Now, after years as a bilingual teacher and school principal, I'm the superintendent of one of the country's largest public school districts. When I talk to students in Houston, I don't see them as documented or undocumented; I just see young people who deserve the same opportunities I had. We must protect DREAMers – not only for their sake, but for the sake of our beloved, diverse and multifaceted country."
– Richard A. Carranza, Superintendent of Houston Independent School District
"Denver Public Schools were the first in the nation to employ teachers under DACA, and we hired them because they are excellent teachers who make our kids and our schools better. To deport talented teachers and students in whom we have invested so much, who have so much to give back to our community, and who are so much a part of our community would be a catastrophic loss."
– Tom Boasberg, Superintendent of Denver Public Schools
"In Baltimore, we are working every day to build a more equitable school system that gives every child real opportunities to succeed, regardless of racial or socioeconomic background. The last thing we should be doing is punishing children we've been investing in for something over which they had no control. It's crucial that we ensure these young DREAMers are safe and valued in school, so they can continue to cultivate their potential."
– Dr. Sonja Brookins Santelises, CEO of Baltimore City Public Schools
“Our mission as a school district is to accept and nurture every young person who enters the doors of our public schools, regardless of race, ethnicity, or faith. We see in the face of each child the potential to become a contributing member of society no matter their national origin. The chief concern of educators is not where children are born, but what they can become given the appropriate support and opportunity.”
– Michael Hinojosa, Superintendent of Dallas Independent School District
"For my entire adult life, education has been my passion, and I've drawn inspiration from witnessing children from all backgrounds realize their potential and accomplish incredible things. That's what I see when I look at each of the 72,000 students across Guilford County – future scientists, and doctors, and lawyers, and teachers. I want to see these children fulfill those dreams, and I want to see that happen here in America, no matter how they got there. I can't imagine who would want to stand in the way of that."
– Sharon Contreras, Superintendent of Guilford County Schools (Greensboro, NC)
The petition drive was organized by Stand for Children, a national nonprofit that advocates for quality educational opportunities in 11 states. “This is a moral responsibility for our country,” said Stand CEO Jonah Edelman. “These are young people who are playing by the rules and working to strengthen their communities. They shouldn’t be pushed into the shadows to live in fear.”
Stand for Children will continue to advocate for leaders in Washington to take action to protect DREAMers and embrace their contributions to our society.