Flight of the Dreamers

I’ve written before about the challenges facing DACA recipients unless Congress acts and noted Tennessee’s Attorney General changed his stance after some focused advocacy.

Now, some Tennessee Dreamers are joining others from around the country in lobbying Congress to take immediate action.

Here’s more from a press release on the Tennessee connection:

Dreamer Yenin E., a student at Trevecca University, wants to be a Christian bilingual counselor, but if she loses DACA protection, she will be out of luck.

 

Yenin, who lives in Smyrna, is one of three Nashville-area young people who are in Washington today through Thursday to talk to members of the Tennessee congressional delegation about passing the Dream Act to allow them to remain in the country. They will be joining approximately 100 Dreamers from 25 states around the country.

 

“Tennessee has been my home ever since I was 4 years old. I have been serving my community through the National Honor Society, Rotary, and BETA club, and I graduated with honors as a Tennessee Scholar,” she said. “I work two jobs, one as a cashier in my community and also as a preschool teacher to pay my way through school.”

 

“Losing DACA would leave me without the ability to pay for my tuition and pursue my dreams of becoming a licensed professional counselor.”

 

Yenin is one of nearly 700,000 individuals brought to this country, undocumented, as children. As of now, these Dreamers, as they are known, can stay and work under limited conditions without being deported, under the protection of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

 

But the Trump administration has decided to rescind DACA, and protection for Dreamers could end. The Dream Act, if passed, would allow them to continue their work and their studies in this country.

 

Members of Congress and their staffs will hear stories first-hand from Dreamers like Yenin, who was born in Latin America.

 

“I want to be a Christian bilingual counselor so that I can help those who have been impacted by our immigration system, other tragic life events, or are struggling with mental health,” she said. “My dream of helping those in need would not be possible without DACA.”

 

Also on today’s trip to Washington is Molly Haynes with Equal Chance for Education, a local foundation that works with Dreamers to help them go to college and succeed.

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport


 

MNPS Statement on Trump’s DACA Action

As U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rolled out the Trump Administration’s plan to rescind DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), MNPS issued a statement calling the President’s decision “unacceptable.”

Here’s the full statement:

Former President Lyndon B. Johnson once shared, “If we succeed, it will not be because of what we have, but it will be because of what we are; not because of what we own, but, rather because of what we believe.”  In light of President Trump’s announced intention to end Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals (DACA), Metro Nashville Public Schools wants to reassert our belief that all school-aged students should have access to an excellent education, and thus access to enhanced opportunities, without regard to their immigration status or the immigration status of their parents.

Students affected by ending DACA include high school students who are presently participating in the program and younger students (age 10-14) who will be eligible upon turning 15. Moreover, and perhaps more tragic, it exposes parents of United States citizens to deportation even though the parent arrived in this country as a child and the United States may be the only home he/she has known.  In effect, their children are second generation Americans and the living embodiment of the American dream. Nevertheless, the rescission of DACA will either require these young U.S. citizens to leave the country or be separated from their parents despite their parents’ longstanding residency and contribution to our community.

The intended rescission of DACA denies our schools and communities many ambitious, intelligent, and highly-motivated students, parents, teachers and staff and will result in fear and uncertainty for many of the families and students we serve. Plainly stated, the result of the President’s announced ending to DACA is unacceptable. We call on Congress to enact the Dream Act or otherwise codify DACA with legislation immediately.

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport


 

Herb Backs Down

Earlier this year, I featured an excerpt from a piece written by Mike Stein about Tennessee’s Attorney General, Herb Slatery, and his support for ending the DACA — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – program.

Stein notes that while Slatery joined with Attorneys General in several other states in sending a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions calling for an end to DACA (and threatening a lawsuit), the conservative CATO Institute actually supports maintaining DACA for its economic benefits.

Now that some reports suggest President Trump may be taking action to end DACA, let’s look at who Herb Slatery would have deported.

Chalkbeat had this report of a Nashville student-turned-educator who is also a beneficiary of the DACA program:

Ruiz knows what it’s like to live with uncertainty about his future.

His mother brought him to the United States to give him a better shot at graduating from high school and going to college, which she hadn’t been able to do in Mexico.

He attended public schools in Nashville, where he mastered English by the third grade.

When DACA was announced during his freshman year at Trevecca, Ruiz applied on the very first day. “DACA was an avenue for me to work hard and do what I wanted with that,” he said. “It made me feel in control and empowered.”

After graduating with a degree in history, Ruiz applied to Teach For America and was assigned to an elementary school in Denver. Realizing that his passion is working with high school students, he moved this year to STRIVE Prep Excel, a charter high school where he teaches Spanish.

For background, here’s how Chalkbeat describes DACA:

The policy gives protections, but not citizenship, for two years at a time to undocumented immigrants who came here as children.

Carlos Ruiz was brought to Nashville at age 6. He didn’t ask to come here. He didn’t deliberately evade the nation’s laws. He attended public schools in Nashville. He graduated from a college in Nashville. He decided to become a teacher.

Slatery sent a letter TODAY to Tennessee’s U.S. Senators announcing he’s pulling Tennessee out of litigation over DACA. Specifically, Slatery notes:

There is a human element to this, however, that is not lost on me and should not be ignored. Many of the DACA recipients, some of whose records I reviewed, have outstanding accomplishments and laudable ambitions, which if achieved, will be of great benef,rt and service to our country. They have an appreciation for the opportunities afforded them by our country.

The sad reality is that our Congress hasn’t taken a serious look at immigration reform that would address situations like Ruiz’s. Until they do, DACA provides protection for the children of immigrants. Children like Carlos Ruiz who has decided to take the opportunity he was given and serve others.

Slatery’s letter calls for legislative solution – seemingly in direct opposition to the Trump Administration’s position.

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport


 

*An earlier version of this story did not include details of Slatery’s letter released today.