Maria Dominguez, educator and activist
By David Sheridan and Stephanie Luongo
In May of 2012 Maria Dominguez didn’t know what her next step would be. She had just graduated from college, but knew that her employment options would limited due to her undocumented status.
She was driving in her car when she heard that President Barack Obama issued the Executive Order enacting the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy. Maria broke down in tears of joy. She knew then that she would be able to realize her dream to become a public school teacher.
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Maria came from a small town in Mexico to the United States at the age of nine with her mother. Her father was deceased. It wasn’t easy, but for the next 24 years, they made a life for themselves in Austin, Texas. Maria overcame daily fears of living in the shadows to earn a college degree, which is difficult to accomplish when you’re undocumented.
Today Maria Dominguez is a bilingual elementary school teacher and a leader in her union, Education Austin.
Maria is very worried. She worries that she, her mother and her brother will be deported. And she also worries about the undocumented immigrants that she continues to advocate for, including her students and their families.
“For me, the election was devastating,” Maria admits. “I took it personally. I felt it showed that many people don’t understand how hard we immigrants work, how much we contribute, and how devoted we are to this country.”
President-elect Trump has said that when he takes office he will end all of President Obama’s executive actions, including DACA, which currently protects some 750,000 undocumented immigrants from deportation.
Despite the uncertainty of what will happen on immigration policy in the incoming administration, Maria is heartened that some cities, universities and school districts have declared that they will have safe zones. “It’s great to see our allies rallying to our cause,” Maria says. NEA has developed school board resolutions that designate districts as Safe Zones. These resolutions contain reassurances for students, procedures for law enforcement and information and support for families and staff.
Already community pressure and activism has resulted in the introduction of the bipartisan BRIDGE Act. Introduced by Sen. Richard J. Durbin, a Democrat, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican, this bill would extend three years of protection for DACA recipients, people who came to the U.S. as children. “The BRIDGE Act would provide us protection in the short-term, and for that we’d be grateful, but it is not a solution,” Maria emphasizes. “We need comprehensive immigration reform.”
Maria’s message to undocumented immigrants has not changed: “You matter. Your story matters. You are part of the fabric of this country.”