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‘Dreamers’ Find Allies Among Their Teachers

Posted on | February 9, 2018 | No Comments

Teachers in California, where 270,000 undocumented Dreamer students reside, have quietly formed alliances with their students as tension mounts over their ability to stay in the United States.

For the most part, these students were brought to this country as young children by parents who were fleeing war, civil strife, or poverty in Mexico or Central America.  They have been raised as Americans, but despite widespread support for a pathway to legal residency and citizenship they now fear deportation following Donald Trump’s announced intent to revoke the DACA program that gave them a legal toehold.

Teachers are these students’ first responders.  They are there when kids break down in tears, when they have anxiety attacks, when they simply don’t know what to do.  The PBS Newshour told part of the story recently (video above).

Last year, I watched as teachers from the Humanitas Social Justice Academy, in the Los Angeles Unified School District, sat in a circle around their former students who were now enrolled in UCLA.  These are kids who did everything right.  They studied hard, avoided teenage pitfalls, and gained admission to a highly selective university.  And they were sobbing.  In the middle of a public meeting, where they had gathered to talk about their high school experience, the emotional pressure of their clouded legal status brought them to the point of emotional collapse.  They cried for themselves.  They cried for their little sisters and brothers.  They cried for their parents.

They could cry in public because they knew that their teachers were with them.  Some of the teachers are them: about 5,000 California teachers have DACA status.

Now, these teachers have a place to gather, learn, and gain support.   The Claremont Graduate University, where I am an emeritus professor, has started an “Allies of Dreamers” certificate program for teachers.  The program, “seeks to fill the growing demand for trained individuals who are committed to ensuring undocumented students are protected, fully integrated into K‐12 schools, and have the necessary support and preparation to access college and successfully transition to graduate school and the workforce.”

The program is in major part the work of my colleague, Will Perez.  He has chronicled the lives of the Dreamers, and his book We Are Americans, published a decade ago, is one of the foundational documents in understanding these students.  And the fact that nothing has happened in a decade to address the situation of 2.7-million young people is testimony to the brokenness of our political system.

Perez has also written about the Dreamers who were deported.  These are kids who grew up American, who are now teenagers or young adults living in the land of their birth, which is not home but an alien place where they are not accepted or assisted.

I’m proud of the teachers who support the Dreamers, and I’m proud to be a part of a university that is trying to help them.  But couldn’t we just get Congress to do something decent…or failing that just get a different Congress?

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About

Charles Taylor Kerchner is an Emeritus Professor and Senior Research Fellow at Claremont Graduate University. My daily musings appear in the blog. The archives of my EdWeek blog are available via link under the 'On California' head. Some of my photography can be seen by clicking on 'Gallery.' And numerous links to academic work and other research and commentary can be found by clicking on 'Projects.'

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