Give Dreamers ‘The Certainty They Deserve,’ Education Leaders Say

By Anne O'Brien

The education community's response to the Trump Administration's decision to end the DACA program has been swift and negative. Education leaders urge Congress to act quickly to give those impacted stability and protection.

On September 5, the Trump Administration announced its decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Nearly 800,000 people are working and studying in the United States under DACA. The program, established by executive order during the Obama administration, allows young undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children—a group known as “Dreamers,” many of whom remember little if anything of their country of origin—the opportunity to live and work here without fear of deportation.

The education community’s response has been swift and negative. Several leaders of Learning First Alliance organizations have released statements critical of the decision, which impacts so many individuals and their families, who are also, as American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) President and CEO Lynn M. Gangone put it, “integrated into our schools, our institutions of higher education, our workforce, and our communities.”

Thomas J. Gentzel, Executive Director and CEO of the National School Boards Association (NSBA), said that his organization is “deeply concerned by the administration’s decision to end the DACA program.”

Daniel A. Domenech, executive director of AASA, the School Superintendents Association, noted that his organization “supports the DACA program and the protection it affords some of our nation’s youngest and most vulnerable students” and is “concerned by the uncertainty [the] announcement brings, not only to our students and their families, but also our broader schools and communities.”

President of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Randi Weingarten issued a strong statement saying that “betraying DACA Dreamers is betraying the values of our diverse and welcoming nation…America will be diminished—and the toll will be measured by families ripped apart, people cast into the shadows and into poverty, businesses upended, economies weakened and dreams shattered.”

Lily Eskelsen García, President of the National Education Association (NEA), also said that ending DACA violates core American values and expressed her concern for those impacted, saying it will “turn their lives upside down and lead to unprecedented peril….They will again face anxiety and uncertainty about their future, stripped of the ability to live normal lives.”

JoAnn Bartoletti, Executive Director of the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) shared the concern that the announcement “plunged 800 thousand young people—many of them our students—back into fear and uncertainty about their futures.”

Each of these leaders also called on Congress to act quickly to—as Eskelsen García put it—develop “a permanent legislative solution to DACA so these young people have the certainty they deserve.” National PTA President Jim Accomando noted that policymakers “have a momentous opportunity to work together to provide real solutions that benefit our nation’s diverse and talented youth and their families.”

“DACA recipients deserve the assurance that the country that they call home wants them to stay and contribute to our society,” said Gangone. “The clock is ticking and time is short.”

Even as they criticized the Administration's action and called on Congress to move forward, education leaders made clear that they support those, particularly students, directly impacted by it. Gentzel, Domenech and Bartoletti specifically recognized that public schools welcome, value and will continue to educate all students, regardless of immigration status. As National PTA Executive Director Nathan R. Monell said, “Access to an education and essential services is the most effective method to give children—and our nation—the best opportunity to succeed. These services should not be denied to any child.”

Bartoletti also directly addressed those impacted, saying, “to the young people affected by [the] decision: you belong in school. Continue to learn and grow and become your best selves. This nation—your nation—needs every bit of the contribution you will make to our common future.”

Updated

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