By Joye Barksdale
For the first time since 2013, the House of Representatives will vote on legislation that would provide a pathway to citizenship for 2.5 million Dreamers, individuals who came to the United States as minors. The legislation would also benefit Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) recipients.
The Dream and Promise Act of 2019 cleared a key committee in late May and is likely to get a vote in the House this Tuesday, June 4.
The legislation would help people like Karen Reyes, who came to the U.S. at age 2 and today teaches deaf preschoolers in Austin, nurturing them and cultivating the curiosity and imagination that will help them thrive. She was able to become an educator because of the protections provided by DACA, which President Trump ended in 2017. If the Dream and Promise Act of 2019 becomes law, students across the nation, as well as their family members and friends, would benefit—along with approximately 37,000 educators such as Reyes.
“When educators lose their protected status, they also lose their work permits, and therefore the ability to do what they love most—to grow tomorrow’s thinkers, inventors, artists, and, yes, educators,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “Without a permanent solution that provides a pathway to citizenship, not only will teachers and students be removed from classrooms, our educators’ lose their ability to support their families, pay their mortgages, their employer-provided health insurance, and, most alarmingly, are exposed to deportation.”
NEA members have been outspoken advocates for immigration reform that protects Dreamers and DACA and TPS recipients and remains true to America’s values as a nation of immigrants. In classrooms across the nation, educators have seen the anxiety and stress in students who worry for themselves and their families. Trump, who made building “the wall” (to be paid for by Mexico, he promised) part of his campaign and continually espouses anti-immigrant sentiments, stokes their fears.
A former student of Marisol Garcia, a social studies teacher in Phoenix and vice president of the Arizona Education Association, is a DACA recipient serving the military. On the day nearly two years ago when the Trump administration announced the end of the DACA program, he called her in a panic. Garcia participated in a protest at an ICE facility soon after and has continued speaking out because ending DACA means denying her students “the educational opportunities they rightly deserve.”
Educators understand more than many the need for the Dream and Promise Act of 2019 because they appreciate the experiences, background, and potential of every student, and they are preparing future generations of leaders. At the legislation’s heart, says Eskelsen García, is “the core American principle of welcoming immigrants and their many talents and contributions. What is at stake are their dreams and aspirations.”