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The Repeal of DACA and the Thousands of Teachers Affected by It

Last week, we covered the likelihood of DACA’s (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) repeal and Denver Public Schools Superintendent Tom Boasberg calling it “catastrophic” for the school district. His description could unfortunately come to describe the impact of DACA’s repeal on a large section of the country’s teacher population.

An estimated 20,000 teachers in the United States are undocumented, but legally working through DACA-obtained permits. With the announcement last week that the program would be rescinded in six months, thousands of teachers and the schools they’re employed by were burdened with the possibility of losing jobs and employees. The news hit home hard with teachers across the country.

“The last three years that I have been teaching was like a world possibility for me and my students,” Jaime Ballesteros told The New York Times. Ballesteros is originally from the Philippines and teaches sixth-grade science at a charter school in Brooklyn. “Today I just didn’t feel the same level of hope,” he added.

Ramon Ramirez, a history teacher in Memphis who came to the U.S. with his parents from Mexico at age 3, fears he’ll lose his job and be sent to a country that he doesn’t know. “My family and I are so assimilated into American culture that we don’t identify as anything else,” he said. Ramirez said that he was 14 when his parents’ visas expired and renewing it would have required them to return to Mexico, but by that time they had a mortgage to pay.

Ramirez said that he fears having to leave a job he loves and people close to him and return to Mexico with a degree that he couldn’t use. “I can’t teach Mexican history—I know nothing about it.”

Teach for America (TFA), a nonprofit dedicated to recruiting and grooming teachers, many in low-income schools, is preparing for blowback with the end of DACA. They have hired 198 teachers protected under DACA, 95 who are still part of the organization and 93 who have left but continue to teach. Across the nation, the organization's teachers reach 10,000 students. TFA managing director Kathryn Phillips told The Los Angeles Times, that TFA has made a point to recruit “Dreamers” as a way of building a teacher/student bond with undocumented students. "Teachers that share the life experience of being undocumented— and have navigated the education system as an undocumented student—can be an additional inspiration or role model," said Phillips.

The possibility of losing teachers in the middle of the school year would be especially traumatizing for school districts. Many school districts don’t know how many of their teachers have DACA status, leaving them open to the unexpected potential loss of teaching staff.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said DACA’s end was an effort to prevent undocumented candidates from taking jobs from American workers. This justification would not seem to apply to the teacher labor market where many districts are scrambling to fill open positions. For teachers like Ramon Ramirez, it boils down to wanting to teach in the country that he’s called home for the majority of his life. “All I’ve ever wanted was to make a difference in somebody’s life,” he said. “Can’t we use more people like that?”


Article by Joel Stice, Education World Contributor

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