Now is the time for school reformers to choose sides. Actually, it has been time for a long time. Since Election Day of last year. But after yesterday’s move by the Trump Administration to continue its open war on the lives and futures of undocumented immigrant children, neutrality is no longer possible.
Once again, the current occupant of the White House has effectively issued a challenge to the school reform movement, especially to conservatives who once were the dominant force within it: Will they up stand against the administration’s war against the futures of poor and minority children?
As many expected, the Trump Administration announced Tuesday that it would end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the initiative started under the Obama Administration that protects 760,000 undocumented emigres brought to this country as children from deportation.
Declaring that DACA somehow “denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans” and calling innocent young men, women, and children “illegal aliens”, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions declared on behalf of the coward occupying the White House that the administration would no longer renew applications for DACA participants.
The result of the Trump Administration’s decision can only be a tragedy, one caused by an immoral regime’s continued bigotry against people who are Black and Brown.
Children as young as nine who are entering fourth grade, will likely be removed from the only homes they have ever known, from the only country they have ever truly lived in, and will be treated like trash by the only government that is supposed to protect their civil liberties. We are talking about helpless children in the midst of learning now being told by the federal government and by the Trump regime that they are undeserving of being treated humanely like the Children of God and members of the Family of Man that they are.
Young men and women who are now in the traditional colleges, technical schools and apprenticeships that make up America’s higher education will also be deported from the only country they have ever known, sent to places that they don’t call home. These are the people who would otherwise be our future business, civic, and government leaders. But the Trump regime is also telling those youths that they are to be treated inhumanely primarily because they aren’t White or native-born.
Then there are the young adults already out of college and contributing to America’s economy and society. This includes 20,000 teachers, including some 1,000 teachers working in traditional public and public charter schools thanks to Teach for America, who are helping poor and minority children gain the knowledge they need for lifelong success. These men and women will now lose their jobs and be tossed out of the country just because their parents brought them here to have better lives and be builders of this nation.
These young men and women, by the way, have also begun starting their own families, with children attending schools. Deporting these undocumented emigres also means breaking up families, putting those children into child welfare systems incapable of providing them with opportunities for brighter futures.
If the Trump regime’s action was done by a regime in a foreign country, it would be decried by Americans here at home as an atrocity. It most certainly is, no matter the efforts by the current occupant of the White House and Sessions to argue otherwise.
Even worse for these young people is that the Trump regime can now easily identify and deport them. Because they had to apply for DACA participation and have provided information on their status as undocumented emigres, the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement can easily round them up and secure deportation through immigration courts. These people trusted the federal government only to find themselves entrapped by it.
The Trump Administration announced that it would not embark on any deportation proceedings those previously covered under DACA for six months, declaring that it wait on Congress to pass legislation that would eventually allow those undocumented immigrant youth to stay. But the regime has an already-proven track record of not keeping its word on anything. As Dropout Nation noted last week, the regime began rounding up and attempting to deport Dreamers even before the announcement. Given the allegations of abuse against undocumented emigres by ICE officials and operators of jails under its watch, these children and young adults are also likely to be beaten, tortured and harmed.
While the regime argues that a potential lawsuit from attorneys general in 10 states forced its hand, the reality is that federal immigration law gives it wide latitude in how it handles undocumented emigres, especially those who are children. In fact, Congress (including Republicans now in leadership in the House and Senate) granted that authority in the Immigration Reform and Control Act passed three decades ago, while earlier administrations, including that of Ronald Reagan and George Bush, have implemented orders similar to DACA.
The reality is that Trump, whose successful campaign has been based on accusing undocumented immigrants (especially Latino emigres) of being “rapists” and “bad hombres”, is engaged in a low-grade form of ethnic cleansing. From where he and the rest of his administration sits, Latino children, undocumented and otherwise, along with other minorities, are nothing more than “aliens” who threaten their sanctified White culture. For all of Trump’s supposed hesitation about ending DACA, he had already declared during his campaign that he would do so. On Tuesday, he merely kept his promise.
Put simply: Some of our most-vulnerable children are being denied brighter futures. So are some of the good and great teachers helping our children succeed. As are young men and women contributing greatly to our society today. They are truly American citizens — and they deserve better. There is no way that school reformers who are supposed to be champions for youth can stand idly by and watch them suffer harm.The good news is that there are plenty of reformers and organizations, many of them in the civil rights wing of the movement, who are standing up for Dreamers and other undocumented immigrant children.
This includes the Education Trust and Teach for America, whose chief executives, former Secretary of Education John King and Elissa Villanueva-Beard, have stood out front to decry the Trump Administration’s immorality. That group also includes Chiefs for Change, the lobbying group of reform-minded chief state school officers, who have also issued their own statements calling for protection for undocumented children.
Meanwhile, among conservative reformers, Former Thomas B. Fordham Institute President Chester (Checker) Finn Jr., a lion of the movement and someone who pushed for passage of laws allowing for those children to become citizens, has also called out the Trump Administration for its deplorable action. Given the help he has given to a Dreamer who was covered by DACA, the opposition to what Trump did is quite personal. Third Way, the centrist Democrat outfit, along with former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, have also been prominent in condemning Trump’s action. Even Walton Family Foundation, which usually eschews taking any public position, allowed its education policy boss, Marc Sternberg, to call for protecting DACA children from deportation.
But there are still reformers, especially those in the conservative and school choice wings, as well as some centrist Democrat players, who remain silent in the face of what is happening. Why? They have their reasons.
They think that opposing Trump’s efforts on immigration will lead to the regime withdrawing its support for expanding charters as well as implementing education savings accounts that can be used just like vouchers. They seem willing to ignore the fact that Trump Administration has proven spectacularly incompetent in rallying fellow Republicans in Congress around any legislation, and has sparred with key congressional leaders to boot. The Trump Administration’s proposed $167 million funding increase for the federal Charter Schools Fund as well as implement education tax credits into the proposed revamp of the tax code are already dead in the water.
They also think that their ties to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos (as well as the support they receive from her family’s foundations) gives them an edge in making their agenda a reality. They seemingly ignore the fact that DeVos has been unable to convince Trump to take any positive action on behalf of vulnerable children; DeVos couldn’t even convince the administration to wait some time before ending the Obama Administration’s guidance on dealing with the bathroom issues of transgendered students. Her failure in policymaking at the federal level (as well as inability to fill key jobs at the Department of Education) has also become quite clear.
Centrist Democrats, in particular, are worried that civil rights- and progressive reformers will drive out conservatives in the movement (as well as White moderates such as themselves), weakening long-term support for advancing systemic reform. What they fail to realize is that standing quietly against the Trump regime’s bigotry will not help their cause (or that of the school reform movement) at all. If anything, silence guarantees that progressives and minority communities being harmed by Trump (as well as other White people of good will) will reject every proposal to transform American public education.
Meanwhile the biggest problem of all with such silence is that it is a betrayal of the school reform movement’s mission to build brighter futures for all children. This includes opposing the kinds of political actions that constitute what Sean O’Malley, the archbishop of Boston’s Catholic archdiocese calls the cultures of death that consume the lives of far too many children.
You can’t declare that you are champions for children when you are willing to tolerate the racism and nativism that has been America’s Original Sin, as well as how that is used to denigrate and discriminate against some of our children and young people. You cannot declare yourself dedicated to helping all children succeed when you are willing through your silence to let some kids be failed by the government their parents support financially. And you cannot be a school reformer if you are complicit in the evil being done to any of our children, even if you think that the your goals justify the means.
Trump’s decision to end DACA has now put a litmus test before those within the school reform movement. Those who choose to stand silently and idly by while this regime commits evil against children have failed it already. As with Trump and his minions, those erstwhile reformers deserve nothing but scorn.