Education leaders are calling on President Trump to protect undocumented immigrants brought here as children amid reports that he may phase out a program that offered them work permits and a reprieve from deportation.
Trump is expected to make an announcement Tuesday about the fate of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a decision that could affect nearly 800,000 undocumented immigrants in the program. Of the nearly 1.2 million eligible for DACA in 2014, the Migration Policy Institute estimated that 365,000 were in middle and high school and 241,000 were in college.
Some educators have said that Trump’s immigration policies and rhetoric have created additional stress for undocumented students or for children whose parents are undocumented. Some schools have worked to ease the stress and have emphasized that schoolhouses are generally off-limits for immigration enforcement.
Critics of DACA argue that President Barack Obama overstepped his authority when he enacted the program in 2012 through an executive order and that the program allows undocumented immigrants to take jobs away from citizens and legal U.S. residents.
But ending DACA will create uncertainty for hundreds of thousands of school students, ratcheting up stress in the classrooms and lecture halls, many educators say. They fear that some may stop showing up to school altogether.
“A lot of these kids might start going into hiding,” said Robert Runcie, superintendent of Broward County Public Schools in Florida. “There’s going to be a lot of fear and uncertainty for young people.”
Chiefs for Change, a bipartisan group of school chiefs from across the country, issued a statement last week calling for Congress to enact protections for “dreamers,” undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as young people.
“They have grown up and been educated as Americans; most came here through no choice of their own, and many know no other country. They are working to make our communities richer and stronger,” the coalition wrote. “Pushing them into the shadows would hurt our schools and communities.”
Eli Broad, the billionaire philanthropist and charter school backer, said that ending DACA “will do a great disservice not just to these individuals but to all Americans.”
“As a child of immigrants, I know firsthand how hard immigrants work to make our country a better place,” Broad said in a statement. “The undocumented migrants who came to America as children are thriving in our schools, our workplaces and our communities. They are our co-workers and classmates, our teachers and neighbors, our doctors and soldiers.”
More than 1,300 Catholic teachers also joined the call, sending a letter to White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly last week urging him to protect dreamers.
“We stand with our students who are DACA beneficiaries. Their perseverance, hard work and hopefulness is an example to us as teachers. We witness the obstacles they overcome each day as they pursue their dream of a better life for themselves and their families,” they wrote. “In facing adversity and uncertainty with grace and hope, they embody the best of our schools, our country and the Catholic tradition.”