Equity & Diversity

Obama Shields Immigrant Parents From Deportation

By Corey Mitchell — December 02, 2014 4 min read
Jackelin Alfaro, 5, a U.S. citizen whose father Oscar Alfaro is from Honduras, plays at a rally near the White House a day after President Obama shielded millions of undocumented immigrant parents from deportation.

President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration will lift the threat of deportation for the parents of millions of America’s K-12 students and ease longstanding concerns among educators about separating school-aged children from their caregivers.

The president’s order will offer deportation reprieves and working papers to undocumented parents of children who are either U.S. citizens or have legal residency here and who have lived in the United States for at least five years.

An estimated 5 million undocumented immigrants stand to benefit from the executive action.

The decision has drawn praise from some educators and immigration advocates and scorn from Republicans in Congress who say the president is overstepping his authority.

“Educators know from experience that family unity plays a critical role in student success,” said National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García. “Yet a growing number of public school students live in fear that our nation’s immigration policies will break up their families, forcing them to choose between their country and their loved ones.”

President Obama’s order grants similar status to undocumented residents who were brought to the United States as children, by expanding eligibility for the existing “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” program. The action does not include protections for their parents. It also does not extend any such benefits to the wave of unaccompanied minors, most from Central America, who surged across the U.S.-Mexico border over the past year.

“I have seen the determination of immigrant fathers who worked two or three jobs, without taking a dime from the government, and at risk at any moment of losing it all, just to build a better life for their kids,” President Obama said in his prime time address late last month. “I’ve seen the heartbreak and anxiety of children whose mothers might be taken away from them just because they didn’t have the right papers.”

‘Sense of Security’

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, the Texas Republican who’s led the conservative wing of the GOP in opposing immigration reform, called on Congress to “use every tool available to prevent the president from subverting the rule of law.”

In 2012, children with at least one undocumented immigrant parent accounted for nearly 7 percent of U.S. students in kindergarten through 12th grade, according to a Pew Research Hispanic Trends Project report released just before the president’s action was announced. Based on 2012 Census data, that’s more than 3.8 million students.

“There’s a great deal of psychological uncertainty that makes it very hard for [those] students to fully feel secure,” said Claire Sylvan, the executive director of the Internationals Network for Public Schools, a network of 17 high schools around the country that serve newly-arrived immigrants and English-language learners.

“If this alleviates that situation, it’s going to create a sense of security for families that will allow students to focus on their schoolwork” instead of worrying their parents or other family members might be deported, she added.

The Migration Policy Institute, a Washington-based think tank, estimates that President Obama’s executive action will lift the threat of deportation for as many as 3.7 million undocumented immigrants who are parents of U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents.

President Obama traveled to Del Sol High School in Las Vegas late last month to rally support for his executive action in a state where nearly 18 percent of all K-12 students have at least one parent who is undocumented, the Pew report found. Del Sol High is the same place he launched his push for immigration reform in January 2013 by calling on Congress to pass comprehensive legislation.

Within five months of that speech, the Democratic-controlled Senate passed a sweeping overhaul to the country’s immigration laws, garnering votes from 14 Republicans. But the Republican-led House never took up the proposal, largely due to a small but vocal group of conservatives within the GOP caucus who oppose a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

Uncertainty Remains

The president’s orders have limitations, said members of a San Francisco-based group known as Educators for Fair Consideration, or E4FC, which works to support undocumented students.

“This announcement is not a permanent solution, we’re not really sure what will happen after President Obama leaves office,” said Jazmin Segura, E4FC’s policy and communications manager. “There’s a lot of anxiety and uncertainty that will remain in the community.”

Katharine Gin, a co-founder and the executive director of E4FC, said she urges educators to provide information about the reforms to immigrant youth so they know their own options, as well as options for their family members, and to help them access reputable legal advisers.

“It’s important to emphasize how essential educators will be in this process,” she said. “It is our hope that educators around the country will see the enormous potential they have.”

Along with Nevada, California, Texas, and Arizona are among the states with large shares of undocumented immigrant parents, the Pew study found.

In a precursor to President Obama’s executive action, the U.S. departments of Justice and Education sent guidance to districts across the nation this past spring, reminding public schools that they are required to provide all children with equal access to education at the elementary and secondary levels, regardless of their own, or their parents’ or guardians’ citizenship or immigration status.

Staff Writer Lauren Camera and Editorial Intern Madeline Will contributed to this report.
A version of this article appeared in the December 03, 2014 edition of Education Week as Obama Grants Deportation Relief to Immigrant Parents

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Classroom Technology Webinar
Here to Stay – Pandemic Lessons for EdTech in Future Development
What technology is needed in a post pandemic district? Learn how changes in education will impact development of new technologies.
Content provided by AWS
School & District Management Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Strategies & Tips for Complex Decision-Making
Schools are working through the most disruptive period in the history of modern education, facing a pandemic, economic problems, social justice issues, and rapid technological change all at once. But even after the pandemic ends,
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Education Funding Webinar
From Crisis to Opportunity: How Districts Rebuild to Improve Student Well-Being
K-12 leaders discuss the impact of federal funding, prioritizing holistic student support, and how technology can help.
Content provided by Salesforce.org

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Equity & Diversity Opinion Does Your District's Way of Decisionmaking Reinforce Systemic Racism?
Leaders must ask if their vision of student success reflects what Black and brown families say is most important, write John B. Diamond and Jennifer Cheatham.
Jennifer Cheatham & John B. Diamond
5 min read
three leaders escape from behind bars
francescoch/iStock/Getty Images Plus
Equity & Diversity Why Two Superintendents of Mostly White Districts Are Actively Fighting Anti-Black Racism
Predominantly white school districts across the country have started addressing systemic racism in the classroom, but not every district is doing it, and those who are brace for backlash.
5 min read
Outdoor education teacher Mark Savage challenges his students with a game in class at Brewer High School in Brewer, Maine on April 30, 2021.
Outdoor education teacher Mark Savage challenges his students with a game in class at Brewer High School in Brewer, Maine in April.
Linda Coan O’Kresik for Education Week
Equity & Diversity What Black Men Need From Schools to Stay in the Teaching Profession
Only 2 percent of teachers are Black men. Three Black male educators share their views on what's behind the statistic.
Equity & Diversity Opinion Researchers Agree the Pandemic Will Worsen Testing Gaps. But How Much?
Without substantial investment in their learning, the life chances of children from low-income families are threatened.
Drew H. Bailey, Greg J. Duncan, Richard J. Murnane & Natalie Au Yeung
4 min read
a boy trying to stop domino effect provoked by coronavirus pandemic
Feodora Chiosea/iStock/Getty Images