Calls to help young undocumented immigrants span education’s political divides

Rep. Carlos Curbelo

Democrat and Republican. Charter and district. Union and reformer. This week, groups often at odds over the future of public education found something to agree on. They called on Congress to address the plight of young people who arrived in the United States illegally as children.

President Barack Obama created a program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals to help those undocumented immigrants get jobs, pursue higher education and live without fear of deportation. The Donald Trump Administration announced this week it would end the program. Trump then called on Congress to replace the program before it gets phased out over six months.

Education groups across the political spectrum spoke about the need to protect DACA students. Some criticized the president. Others took a more measured approach, focusing on the need for legislative action.

Here is what some of them had to say:

U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla and a former Miami-Dade School Board member, told Politico: “These are America’s children and they not should live in constant fear of being deported to their parents.” He’s pushing his colleagues to pass H.R. 1468, a bill that would give undocumented immigrants a chance to become permanent residents.

Nina Rees, president and chief executive officer of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, said in a statement:

The only permanent solution for Dreamers is to pass legislation that gives them the security of legal status and the opportunity to become citizens and continue to build their lives in this country – the country Dreamers have called home for most of their lives.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush expressed disappointment with the president’s decision. So did his longtime political adversaries at the statewide teachers’ union.

Before Trump’s announcement, Bush wrote on Facebook:

I believe President Obama’s immigration executive orders were unconstitutional, but it would also be unconscionable to repeal DACA without ensuring Congress provides a legislative solution. Congress must act urgently to provide Dreamers certainty, through the BRIDGE Act and other legislative options that provide a path to legal status for children brought to the United States illegally.

Florida Education Association (FEA) President Joanne McCall was also disappointed in the decision, according to her statement:

The children protected by DACA are, for all intents and purposes, Americans.  They have grown up here. Their dreams for the future are here. Their families are part of our communities – they are part of our school community. The President’s actions today will tear families apart — and our students will suffer.

Some of the nation’s top charter school organizations have grown increasingly vocal about the issue. KIPP Public Charter Schools CEO Richard Barth expressed outrage in a press release:

I am disappointed and outraged by President Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in six months. We should and must do everything possible to make sure the hard-working young people covered under DACA have a path to citizenship because they contribute to our economy and make our communities better places to live.

It’s personal for a top executive at IDEA Public Schools. Irma Munoz, the chief operating officer of the South Texas-based nonprofit, issued a statement on its Twitter feed:

I was born a dreamer, went to college as a DREAMer, and will always be a dreamer. Bold and courageous people made sure I could achieve my dreams. Now, it is my turn- to whom much is given, much is expected. Undocumented and DACAmented students, families, alumni, faculty and staff, I stand with you.

Also, Chiefs for Change, a coalition of reform-minded state and local education chiefs, spoke out against the president’s decision in a prepared statement. Robert Runcie, the superintendent of Broward County Public Schools, said:

Dreamers are our future — students, members of our communities, even teachers. They’re productively engaged and employed, and it would deeply hurt our schools if they were pushed out or deported. Our schools have done their job in educating them to be contributing members of our society. We must reform the law — and make sure no harm is done to these young people in the meantime.

A bipartisan group of former education secretaries also weighed in, Education Week reported.

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