by Félix Pérez
Educators will continue pursuing remedies to ensure immigrant students reach their full potential and remain with their families, despite a ruling this morning by the U.S. Supreme Court that effectively blocks two programs by President Barack Obama.
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In a highly anticipated decision, the court deadlocked 4-4, meaning a lower court’s nationwide injunction of the programs remains in place. Known as expanded DACA and DAPA, the programs were rolled out in 2014 to keep millions of children and families together after Congress failed to pass immigration reform.
“Today is a sad day for millions of students and their families,” said Utah middle school teacher and National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García. “The Supreme Court decision will inflict further harm on the health and the educational opportunities of millions of children faced with fear and anxiety about separation from their parents and families.”
Addressing the nation after the ruling, President Obama said, “I think it is heartbreaking for the millions of immigrants who’ve made their lives here, who’ve raised families here, who hoped for the opportunity to work, pay taxes, serve in our military, and more fully contribute to this country we all love in an open way.”
Today’s ruling does not affect Obama’s original DACA executive order from 2012, which to date has resulted in more than 730,000 students and young adults, or DREAMers, being able to apply every two years for authorization to work and study without fear of deportation. “These are students, they’re teachers, they’re doctors, they’re lawyers. They’re Americans in every way but on paper. And fortunately, today’s decision does not affect this policy. It does not affect the existing DREAMers,” said Obama.
Obama chastised Congress for its refusal to “bring a rationality to our immigration system, and to allow people to come out of the shadows and lift this perpetual cloud on them.” He added, “The Court’s inability to reach a decision in this case is a very clear reminder of why it’s so important for the Supreme Court to have a full bench,” referring to Senate Republican leaders’ refusal to hold a hearing or up-or-down vote on Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.
Dismayed by the court’s action, educators are making it clear they will continue speaking out for students and their families. “Students must not lose hope. Educators across the nation hear your cries and are organizing to do what is right for students, families, and communities,” said Gladys Márquez, a high school English Language Learners teacher in Blue Island, Ill. “Our students need us to be brave and continue tour fight to ensure that they can reach their fullest potential.”
Teacher retention specialist Nidia Lias, of Tempe, Ariz., sought to reassure students and their families:
Communities and families need to know that educators will continue to prepare kids to make a positive impact on humanity. Schools are safe havens. Educators are not immigration agents, therefore we will not be checking papers for legal status. We will continue to educate and protect our students.
Eskelsen García said educators “will not rest. We will pursue all avenues to keep these children in school to reach their full potential and united with their families. And we will continue our fight for comprehensive immigration reform. Politicians need to put their political differences aside and reach across the aisle to do not only what is just but right for our students.”