By Nicol Colchete, CEI Intern and Christine Mason
Who Is Affected by DACA?
Roughly 800,000 undocumented young people will be impacted by the Trump administration’s decision to end Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals (DACA). This will end the protection of immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children. Thus, the termination of DACA will leave these people in legal limbo. According to the Department of Homeland Security, DACA will be phased out with an official end in 6 months. The end of DACA could result in the deportation of Dreamers (young people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children).
Ending DACA will split families apart, separating brothers and sisters and parents and children, or deporting youth back to a country that is unfamiliar to them. For those who came here as children, the United States is the homeland that they know. Many will be traumatized as they try to adjust to completely new cultural norms and a new way of life in a country that will be completely foreign to them.
How Can Schools Respond?
Schools are already feeling the impact of Trump’s announcement. Concerned students are visiting counselors and principals’ offices in tears, full of fear and anxiety. What can schools do?
David DeMatthews and Jesus Cisneros, professors at the University of Texas, El Paso, in a column for the El Paso times, offer this advice to schools:
‘Principals and teachers should work with families and advocacy groups to take additional actions, including:
- Issuing a statement that articulates support for undocumented students and defining the responsibilities of principals, teachers, and schools in this work.
- Strengthening teacher and parent training that provide all community members with the knowledge to support, advocate, and protect undocumented students and their families.
- Providing clear communication and information in multiple languages.
- Collaborating with community organizations that provide support, counseling, and mental health services for undocumented students and families.
- Affirming that undocumented students can go to college, but may require additional research and support given the cancellation of DACA.
- Designating an undocumented student specialist who can help students and families investigate school and career options, provide student mentoring, and make connections between different community organizations based on individual needs and circumstances.”
Collecting and sharing information about community programs and events that address the needs of immigrant communities and ensuring school personnel is in attendance as a sign of solidarity.’
DeMatthews and Cisneros advise that principals and teachers must address the ending of DACA in their schools to help their students feel safe and to give their students opportunities to discuss issues affecting them. While acknowledging the hesitation that educators might feel about becoming involved, DeMatthews and Cisneros provide some useful guidelines to follow so our voices are part of the dialogue. The cancellation of DACA is unjust, uncaring, and ultimately self-defeating, and it is an educator’s responsibility to discuss this.
As the Annie E. Casey Foundation stated in a post on September 5 ,”The young people who were eligible for DACA have become as much a part of our national fabric as every child blessed to be born in this country. And like all kids, they deserve the opportunity to realize their full potential.”
Another Resource. An additional resource can be found in an article by Katie Aragon (2017) in The School Counselor Journal. That guide includes 15 suggested actions for teachers that were developed by the American Federation of Teachers, United We Dream and the National Immigration Law Center. These include distributing information on rights, providing counseling for students who have a family member detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), helping families develop an immigration raid emergency plan, and working with school boards to develop a resolution affirming and welcoming all students.
Schools and ICE. Note that schools are generally recognized as sensitive locations that are free from the ICE and Customs and Border Protection enforcement. According to the Aragon (2017), ‘if immigration agents request personal identifying information about students from you or your colleagues or request access to a classroom to speak to a student, you are well within your rights if you refuse to provide that information.’