Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) hosted a Capitol Hill briefing featuring immigration and education experts to discuss the impact of the Administration’s efforts rescind Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) has had on students and teachers over the past year. DACA was created under President Obama in 2012 and on September 5, 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the Trump Administration’s plan to end DACA, effective March 5, 2018. On Friday, August 31, a Texas Court gave permission to continue DACA for current covered immigrants.
Congressman Luis Gutierrez, retiring at the end of this Congress, opened the event with some passionate comments and advise for the young people in the audience covered and involved with the DACA extension. He urged current protected individuals to reapply telling people that they should not hide in fear and not re-apply since officials already know where they live and have their information.
The Congressman also talked about some of his conversations with young constituents and how they may have, in the past, focused on continuing their education and pursuing a bright future but today they have been emphasizing to him that they don’t want any legislative immigration deal that risks the safety and the protection of their parents for a DACA extension. They are as interested and concerned about their parent’s well-being and safety as much as they are about their own safety, status and future.
Gutierrez also talked about the importance of staying focused and on message and to not get distracted by discussions that call for the elimination of ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and he pointed out how the entire country was focused on the separation of families at the border but voters were easily distracted when some people started calling for and debating the future of ICE instead of the fate of these children and families.
At the briefing panel speakers included: Diana Pliego, National Immigration Law Center, Elizabeth Ojedo, Elementary School Teacher in Westmont, IL, Rebeca Shackleford, UnidosUS, Karen Reyes, Teacher with Austin Independent School District, and Claudia Quinonez, Student at Trinity University.
Karen Reyes is a teacher of special needs children and is covered by DACA. She discussed how she was able to complete her education once President Obama created DACA by executive order. She now provides special education classes for three and four-year-old’s who are deaf. She re-counted her discussions with parents of her students discussing with them how they should protect their families. Other speakers also talked about their experiences in school as both teachers and dealing with parents of students and what they can do to protect themselves.
One part of the panel briefing discussed the use of Safe Zone School Board Resolutions. These resolutions can assist families in protecting their children while in school. Because of a past Supreme Court decision (Plyer V. Doe) guaranteeing K-12 education regardless of legal status and two federal laws, the McKinney-Vento Homeless Students Act and the Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) certain protections exist in a school.
Panelists suggested that people reach out to their local National Education Association branch and get their guidance on how to pass a Safe Zone School Resolution through their local school board. It contains reassurance and procedures for law-enforcement and clarifies the constitutional rights of all students regardless of immigration status. The resolution outlines steps that a student, teacher and law enforcement must follow if they approach the school.
The status of DACA is that it is in temporary extension. On Friday, August 31, Texas Federal District Judge Andrew Hanen rejected a lawsuit by the state of Texas and nine other states. It was widely expected that the judge would be sympathetic to the states and place an injunction on DACA. Instead he generally said the states were too late and that if the DACA order had caused state harm they should have acted earlier. He indicated that he thought DACA was not legal, but it was too late., “the egg has been scrambled…to try and put it back in the shell perhaps is a greater risk to many….and does not make sense.” A Washington DC federal court has generally gone along with that decision. Thus, DACA recipients are being urged to extend their DACA now.