Equity & Diversity

Educators, Students Brace for Trump’s DACA Decision

By Corey Mitchell — September 01, 2017 3 min read
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By Corey Mitchell and Francisco Vara-Orta

As the nation’s education leaders and immigration advocates urge President Donald Trump to save the DACA program that protects hundreds of thousands of young people from deportation, the White House has promised to announce its decision Tuesday on the fate of so-called “DREAMers.”

“We love the DREAMers,” Trump said during an event Friday at the White House.

The pending decision comes as education leaders and congressional lawmakers urge Trump not to dismantle the program for young immigrants brought to the country illegally as children. DACA—the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program—provides temporary, two-year permits that protect roughly 800,000 immigrants from deportation.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the announcement will come Tuesday, the same day that at least nine Republican state attorneys generals have vowed to file a legal challenge to the program.

If DACA ends, the impact could be felt almost immediately in K-12 classrooms. Thousands of students could lose their teachers—and that’s just from Teach of America, which employs at least 100 DACA recipients. Tens of thousands more students and teachers could be affected as well.

With the stroke of a pen, the president could immediately revoke their status or sunset the program by preventing current deferred action recipients from renewing their protections.

During the 2016 campaign, Trump promised to repeal the executive order the day he took office. Since the election, he’s been less clear on what his intentions are.

“DACA is a very, very difficult subject for me,” Trump said back in February. “It’s one of the most difficult subjects I have because you have these incredible kids.”

While Trump has promised to treat DREAMers with respect, he also faces pressure from hardline immigration opponents who want him to end the Obama-era protections for the young immigrants.

Led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, at least nine Republican attorneys general are expected to file a legal challenge to the program. That number dwindled when, on Friday, Tennessee’s attorney general backed out of the effort to pressure Trump to end the program, The Tennessean reports.

While advocating for DREAMers, school leaders across the country have shared their own coming-of-age tales about growing up as immigrants in the United States.

District of Columbia State Superintendent of Education Hanseul Kang and Broward County, Fla., Superintendent Robert Runcie both said this issue is very personal for them because they are immigrants.

Runcie came to the United States from Jamaica at the age of 6. Born in South Korea, Kang came to the United States before her first birthday, but didn’t realize that she was undocumented until she was 16 years old.

“I know the fear that these undocumented students and their families are experiencing. This is the only place I ever knew, and while I was lucky to attain permanent residency, there was no clear path for stay in the only place I’ve ever known,” Kang said. “We are calling on our Congress to offer these students lasting protections and in the meantime urgently asking the Trump administration to let this stay in place.”

The two spoke about their experiences during a conference call arranged by Chiefs for Change, an organization that focuses on K-12 schools leadership.

“This country and heritage is built on immigrants, so it’s just vitally important that school leaders take a stance on this,” Runcie said.

Further Reading

Uncertainty for DACA Recipients

As Trump Weighs Fate of Immigrant Students, Schools Ponder Their Roles

Common Bond for Miami Schools Chief, Student: Being Undocumented

After the Election, DACA Teachers Wonder About Their Future in the Classroom

Undocumented Teachers Shielded by DACA in Legal and Emotional Limbo

How Much Can Schools Protect Undocumented Students?

Bracing for a Showdown Over Immigration Rights, DACA

Educators Renew Call to Protect DREAMers

Photo Credit: Vicky Sosa, a high school senior, marches outside the Grayson County courthouse in Sherman, Texas, on Feb. 16, during a rally marking “A Day Without Immigrants.”

--LM Otero/AP

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.