Social Justice

Our Students’ Uncertain Futures: What does the end of DACA mean for teachers?

“Anyone who is in the United States illegally is subject to deportation.”
“Mexico will pay for the wall. 100%. They don’t know it yet, but they’re going to pay for the wall.”
“Maybe they’ll be able to deport her.”

“It’s our right as a sovereign nation to choose immigrants that we think are the likeliest to thrive and flourish and love us.”

These are all direct quotes from President Donald Trump and there is not any doubt about how the current administration in this country feels about immigration specifically “illegal” immigration. Whether it was the “Build a wall!” chants during his campaign, or Trump’s initial refusal to denounce white supremacy, or most recently, his decision to end the DACA program, that made teachers realize that this President is not fond of (illegal) immigrants to the United States.
Maybe this President doesn’t really like immigrants to the United States. Click To Tweet
It is now up to us to show our students that not everybody feels the same way as our current administration. We need to let our students know that they have the right to a free and appropriate education, regardless of their immigration status. Now, more than ever, they need to know that they are safe and welcome in your classroom despite the decision to end the DACA program.
What is DACA?
DACA stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. It was started five years ago in 2012, under the previous President Barack Obama. Its purpose is to protect “Dreamers” or children who were brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents. Under this policy, minors who came to the U.S. before their 16th birthday could continue to live and work in the U.S. without fear of being deported. These youth would be given temporary relief called “deferred action,” which is valid for two years and may be renewed at the end of two years. There are some stipulations; DACA recipients must have lived in America continuously since 2007 and must not have a criminal record. In order to apply for DACA there is a five hundred dollar fee, a background check, and several identifying documents have to be submitted.
The decision to end DACA by March 5, 2018 will put 800,000 young people in a state of complete uncertainty, some of whom support their families with their incomes. Since Dreamers are well documented by the government, some families may choose to move their families to new locations to avoid being deported.
It is now up to Congress to come up with a solution.
So what does this mean for teachers?
According to the writer Cory Collins, in his article “DACA Decision Puts DREAMers Back in Limbo,” from the Teaching Tolerance website, one-way educators can help students in this uncertain time is through empowerment. Integrate stories from immigrants into your classroom and show your students who Dreamers are and why this policy is important for their livelihoods. The website Teaching Tolerance is an excellent resource for educators, as it provides countless classroom resources such as lesson plans, texts, and teaching strategies. Educators can use their resources to give non-dreamers the background knowledge and information to empathize so they may also stand in solidarity with other students and their families who are affected by the end of DACA.
Be there for your students
Students will have anxiety and fear over their futures here in America, an anxiety I can’t possibly imagine. It is our job to reinforce to them that they have a legal right to an education, regardless of their immigration status. We need to be ready to listen to our students and advocate for them and their families. Reiterate that schools are safe spaces for all students, and let your students voice their concerns. Depending on the age of your students, this can be done a number of different ways; reading a text about immigration together, writing in journals, or having a one to one meeting during lunch time. Let your students know that you hear their fears and you will be here for them and their families.
It is important that these students feel safe. If you witness a student using derogatory language against immigrants or spreading negative viewpoints about immigrants, it’s important that you correct them and speak out against bias. The Teaching Tolerance website offers a pocket guide for students and teachers complete with examples of how to respond to everyday stereotypes and bias located here.
Educate your students and their families about their rights
The ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) has put together wallet cards informing undocumented citizens on what to do if they are stopped by police in their car, if ICE agents come to their home, and if they are arrested by police that can be found here . Make sure students and their families are made aware of their rights and how to respond in different situations. In addition, the organization, Dream Team LA has put together some other tips for undocumented students that can be found here.
I fear this is just the beginning. We, as educators, are sometimes the most integral support systems for students and their families. We need to be ready to support our most vulnerable students and to stand up and fight for their rights to stay in the only country they may know.
 
References:
Collins, Cory. “DACA Decision Puts DREAMers Back in Limbo.” Teaching Tolerance, Southern Poverty Law Center, 5 Sept. 2017, www.tolerance.org/magazine/daca-decision-puts-dreamers-back-in-limbo.
Dream Team LA, Dream Team Los Angeles, dreamteamla.org/resources/know-your-rights/.
“Speak Up Pocket Card.” Teaching Tolerance, Southern Poverty Law Center.
“What To Do If Immigration Agents (ICE) Are At Your Door.” American Civil Liberties Union, American Civil Liberties Union, www.aclu.org/know-your-rights/what-do-if-immigration-agents-ice-are-your-door.

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