By Sabrina Holcomb
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Just days after the Trump administration announced it was ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, para-educator Saul Ramos was talking to a classroom full of students when one of the most popular kids in the school “came out” as a DACAmented student.
The other students were stunned, unable to process how their all-American classmate is one of the 800,000 DREAMers at the center of the immigration debate.
“I was brought here when I was two years old,” the teenager (who speaks only English) revealed, telling his classmates how terrified he is of being deported to a strange country now that his two-year deferral is expiring. “DACA’s ended and there’s nothing I can do.”
That’s when Ramos stepped in, explaining to his student that there is, in fact, something he can do: young people whose DACA status expires before March 5, 2018, are eligible for one final two-year renewal before the program ends—but it’s a tight deadline; they must apply by October 5 of this year.
“I realized that he wasn’t the only DACAmented student in my district who didn’t have vital information,” says Ramos, a Massachusetts educator who works in an urban school district with a large population of immigrant students and children of color.
Racing against the clock, Ramos and his local affiliate, the Education Association of Worcester, are hurriedly planning an emergency DACA renewal and information clinic and urging other affiliates to do the same.
It’s important that we let DACA families know that the union and community are in this together. — Saul Ramos
Across the country, local organizations are hosting renewal clinics for DREAMers, hoping to shield undocumented youth from deportation while they lobby Congress for passage of a permanent 2017 DREAM Act that will safeguard the lives and livelihoods of thousands of young people.
To help get out word about the Worcester clinic, Ramos, who is NEA’s 2017 ESP of the Year, has deployed an army of education support professionals. “ESPs live in the communities we work in,” he says. “We know the families. We go to the same churches. We have to do this.”
The emergency clinic will provide families with pertinent facts about the end of the DACA program and connect them to an array of resources, including organizations that are paying the $495 DACA renewal fee to help ease the financial burden on students and their families.
Ramos, who also serves as Vice President of his local, has some advice for educators who want to hold renewal clinics in their own school communities:
- Don’t just reach out to your local affiliate for resources. Make sure to tap your state affiliate and NEA as well;
- Connect with local organizations about providing free information and resources for your clinic;
- Check with immigration rights organizations in your state about the resources available to that state’s DACAmented students. In Illinois, the Mexican consulate is helping certain DACAmented students with renewal fees, and in Rhode Island, the governor has raised funds to pay renewal fees for her state’s DREAMers; and
- Spread the word through social media and reach out to diverse communities. This is not a Latino issue; DACA students hail from countries around the world.
“It’s important that we let DACA families know that the union and community are in this together,” stresses Ramos.
While Ramos and other concerned educators take action on the local and national levels, his students are helping to support each other as they try to make sense of it all.
“I heard them tell their classmate, ‘This is your country. You live here. Why would they send you somewhere else?’,” shares Ramos.
“They know this is wrong.”
Check out a calendar of DACA renewal clinics hosted by local organizations nationwide; a list of organizations providing DACA renewal funds; a link to apply for renewal scholarships; and WeAreHereToStay.org for five facts, ways to fight back, and DACA resources.