Tag: Dreamers

Reformers Can Help Fulfill the Dream

There has been some important news on the future of the 780,000 undocumented immigrant children, young adults and even teachers protected from deportation under the now-cancelled Deferred Action for Childhood…

There has been some important news on the future of the 780,000 undocumented immigrant children, young adults and even teachers protected from deportation under the now-cancelled Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and now facing the possibility of being removed from the country they have called home for nearly their entire lives. That news should rally school reformers to do more to help the Dreamers who are in our schools and teaching in classrooms — and stand up against a political regime engaged in what can best be called low-grade ethnic cleansing.

First came yesterday’s ruling by a U.S. District Court Judge in Brooklyn that, along with a ruling handed down earlier this month, halts the Trump Administration’s effort to fully shut down the program. In the case, Vidal et. al. v. Nielsen, Judge Nicholas Garaufis ruled that the plaintiffs, which include TK Dreamers under threat of deportation, will likely win their effort to stop the cancellation of DACA because the regime didn’t offer “legally adequate reasons” to do so.

In his injunction, Garaufis found that the Trump Administration’s main justifications for ending DACA — that it would be found unconstitutional if challenged in court by a group of attorneys general that had threatened a lawsuit over the initiative, and that it violated the Administrative Procedure Act and the Immigration and Naturalization Act — were “legally erroneous” and were based on faulty interpretations of both laws. Just as importantly, the administration’s own files prove lie to those justifications; essentially, the judge found that the regime was making things up as it went along. Finally, as Garaufis points out, the fact that the Trump Administration cannot reconcile its argument that DACA would be found unconstitutional (and places the federal government at “litigation risk”) and still continue to operate certain aspects of DACA; either it had to shut down the program entirely or keep it operating and find another justification for shutting it down.

You can expect the Trump administration to appeal the ruling as it has the similar injunction handed down last month by U.S. District Judge William Alsup in University of California v. Department of Homeland Security. Nor does the ruling help those Dreamers whose protections from deportation have already expired; they are probably unable to reapply for those protections because their deadlines have already passed. But it can help those Dreamers still covered under DACA even after March, when the administration planned to end the program altogether.

The bigger and more-important play is happening on the floor of the U.S. Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, in his usual unwillingness to lead, has allowed a free-for-all debate on immigration policy that has often added more-confusion over matters than anything concrete.

The Trump Administration has already staked its ground, calling for Congressional Republicans to support a proposal from Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley that would allow Dreamers (including an additional one million who could either not qualify for DACA or didn’t apply out of fear of being tracked down and deported if an administration decided to cancel it) to gain citizenship after 12 years after meeting a series of steps that include gaining a higher education credential and not getting a criminal record. It is essentially a version of the immigration restriction plan Trump proposed last month.

As it was the case last month, Congressional Democrats and some Republicans, including Arizona’s Jeff Flake and John McCain, have already balked at the Grassley plan because of the restrictions and because Dreamers who have already spent their entire lives in this country shouldn’t have to wait another 12 years to become citizens. It has also been rejected by nativists among Congressional Republicans who want to do even more to keep out Latino, Asian and African (in short, non-White and non-European) emigres from becoming part of the American Dream. They would prefer a plan offered two months ago by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, which would be even more-restrictive than what Grassley has offered.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, in his unwillingness to lead, has brought even more chaos to the discussion around helping DACA youth.

Meanwhile the other plans being offered up — including bills that would simply focus on giving Dreamers the citizenship status that nearly all of them have rightfully earned by being good citizens in all but paper — face tough odds of passage. Which isn’t shocking. Over the past two decades, thanks to opposition to expansive immigration as well as political machinations by both parties geared towards denying political victories for both George W. Bush and Barack Obama, little movement has been made on either granting Dreamers citizenship or addressing the immigration system itself, which is a legacy of America’s racialism and bigotry toward Asians, Eastern European Jews and the Irish (who were deemed too Catholic and loyal to the Pope to be sufficiently American).

With the future of Dreamers needlessly in flux, there’s a need for all Americans to stand up and fight for youth who have been Americans and good citizens in all but name. The school reform movement, in particular, can help in some important ways.

At the national level, there are already reform outfits such as Teach For America, Emerson Collective and the Education Trust who have actively advocated for Dreamers to gain the citizenship they deserve. Yet as I have noted on Monday and over the past few months, the movement itself hasn’t done enough on their behalf. Given that 606,000 of DACA youth (both eligible and already covered) are in elementary, secondary and postsecondary schools (and another 9,000 are teaching children in classrooms), it is absolutely immoral for reformers to not fight for them. That it is also the politically savvy thing to do (you know, a way to win allies for transforming American public education) is also true. But first and foremost, do right for children.

One simple and easy reformers, especially Beltway players, can help out: Sign onto to letters and petitions being circulated on Capitol Hill by outfits such as United We Dream; a simple call or e-mail to these groups to become signatories is easy to do. [Calling up Teach For America to help with its efforts also makes sense.] Reform outfits with stronger connections to Congress, including National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, can do more by sending letters and asking their members to call their senators and representatives to demand a reasonable (that is, not 12 years of hoops) path to citizenship. They can even bring up the issue during meetings with congressional staffers during day visits to Capitol Hill. On a financial level, individual reformers and organizations can support efforts such as the Journey to Stay Home, a march from New York City to Washington, D.C., to bring further attention to the individual plight of Dreamers.

What about on the ground? There are things that can be done. Charter school operators who have DACA youth (as well as children of undocumented emigres) can take the step of being sanctuaries for those children. This means not cooperating with ICE cops in their inquiries as well as keeping watch for attempts by immigration officers to round up parents and children in front of their schools. Traditional districts such as Chicago Public Schools have already taken similar steps. Reformers working in communities can also talk to immigration rights activists about how they can provide support and cover on the ground.

The most-important thing reformers can do for DACA youth and other Dreamers is to stand up, speak up, and be counted. As individuals, you can write to your senators and representatives and ask them to defend Dreamers by supporting legislation that focuses solely on their path to citizenship. If you work in schools and know a Dreamer, let them know that you have their back. Within your organizations, make the case for leadership to stand up and be counted; how can an outfit be a credible advocate for kids when it isn’t working for all of them?

Champions for children must stand up at all times for every child no matter who they are. The time to defend the lives and futures of Dreamers is now.


Featured photo courtesy of NBC News.

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Doing Right for All Children at All Times

Your editor could spend the day tearing apart the latest claptrap about the apparent “failure” of D.C. Public Schools from Manhattan Institute’s Max Eden and Lindsey Burke of the Heritage…

Your editor could spend the day tearing apart the latest claptrap about the apparent “failure” of D.C. Public Schools from Manhattan Institute’s Max Eden and Lindsey Burke of the Heritage Foundation. As you would expect, it is a shoddy piece co-written by a ‘wonk‘ whose ‘research‘ on so many issues is slipshod at best. But there are far greater concerns that must be addressed this week — and school reformers must do more than be studiously silent about them.

There’s the upcoming debate happening on the floor of the U.S. Senate over whether the undocumented immigrant youth who are under the threat of deportation thanks to the Trump Administration’s decision last September to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (as well as its low-grade ethnic cleansing effort against Black and Brown communities). Not only are those children’s lives are stake, so are the futures of native-born children of undocumented emigres being deported by the Trump regime.

With 100 or so Dreamers losing their DACA status each day, and more than 780,000 children and adults (including 9,000 teachers in classrooms) under the threat of being thrown out of the communities they have called home nearly all of their lives, ensuring that Congressional leaders do the right thing by them is as important to ensuring brighter futures for them as addressing the quality of teaching and curricula.

But keeping the Dreamers in schools is also important on educational grounds. As a team led by Kevin Shih of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute determined in a study released today, DACA’s protections contributed to an 11 percentage point increase in graduation rates among undocumented Latino emigres, leading to 49,000 more high school graduates. These benefits, along with increases in college attendance, accrue to the youth as well asĀ  their communities, and ultimately, to the nation itself.

There’s also the continuing evidence that Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos will do nothing to protect the civil rights of our most-vulnerable children. The latest example came today when the U.S. Department of Education announced that it would no longer accept complaints filed by transgender children over policies that ban them from using restrooms fitting with their gender preferences.

Given that the Trump Administration has already repealed an executive order requiring such accommodations as recognized under Title IX of the Civil Rights Act, the move was not a surprise. But it is still an outrage. Not only is DeVos supporting active discrimination against vulnerable youth, she is abdicating the federal government’s obligation to protect them from harm. Which is as damaging to these childrenĀ  — if not more so because of their increased risk of physical harm — as forcing them to attend failure mills.

As with protecting Dreamers, helping transgender youth is also an educational concern in extraordinarily concrete ways. Some 41.8 percent of transgender high schoolers reported being subjected to out-of-school suspensions and other forms of harsh traditional school discipline, according to a 2016 survey by GLSEN. When the Department of Education holds school operators to account for overusing harsh discipline against all children, they are helping our youth gain the school cultures they need to thrive beyond classrooms.

These are two of the most-immediate issues outside of the usual education policy and practice matters that should concern reformers as well as all champions for children. But they aren’t the only ones.

Supporting the efforts of criminal justice reformers and Black Lives Matter activists in addressing police brutality and corruption that touches the lives of our children remains important. Especially given the outsized role American public education plays in perpetuating the school-to-prison pipeline (especially as the second-highest source of referrals to juvenile justice systems).

The disenfranchisement of Black and Latino voters (as well as other communities) through gerrymandering and vote suppression tactics are also important matters on which the movement should weigh. Why? Because most of the nation’s 14,000 or so traditional districts are still run by elected boards who should be accountable to the families they serve, while chief state school officers are elected in 13 states. This, by the way, is an election year.

Certainly school reformers have to devote much of their time to addressing policy and practice. But there is no reason why reform outfits aren’t signing on to letters from immigration rights activists in support of DACA youth, or issuing statements calling out DeVos for refusing to meet the federal government’s civil rights obligations to children, or working with voting rights activists on registration drives.

These moves are the right things to do on behalf of our children. They are also politically sensible. As your editor has stated over and over again, and it has been proven by both reformers such as Green Dot founder Steve Barr, sustaining systemic reform means gaining support from poor, minority and immigrant communities. Reformers can’t win support for their long-term agenda from those men and women if they aren’t willing to stand alongside them on the immediate concerns facing their neighborhoods. You can’t gain allies if you’re not willing to be one — and no one cares about your ideas until you show that you care about them.

Yet while some in the movement (especially civil rights-oriented reformers, as well as Teach For America and the Education Trust) have stepped up, many others have exhibited almost no concern.

Charter school lobbyists are fretting about whether the Trump Administration will provide help to charter school operators in its possible $1 trillion infrastructure plan — even though most expect that the regime’s plan will mostly be funded by states and local governments from which charters can already lobby for more money.

Conservative reformers are more-interested in arguing that the graduation scandal at D.C. Public Schools proves that overhauling traditional districts is not worth doing — despite the fact that a close look at the objective evidence proves such arguments to be ill-considered, lacking in nuance, and have no regard for actual facts.

Hardcore school choice advocates are complaining (as they always do this time of year) about the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools’ latest ranking of charter school authorizing laws. They have some legitimate concerns. But they won’t matter if children are being deported and cannot attend schools in the first place.

Other reformers will wag their tongues about the Trump Administration’s all-but-dead-on-arrival budget for the 2018-2019 fiscal year. As with last year’s proposal, it will push for a pilot program to voucherize $500 million in Title 1 dollars (will never happen) and increase federal charter school funding by 47 percent (also unlikely), while proposing the elimination of other programs such as TRIO, which has helped generations of poor and minority children attend and complete higher education.

Not one of these things have to do with the immediate pressing need to protect all children, especially those Black and Brown as well as immigrant and transgender, from the Trump Administration’s predations against them. Not at all. Even worse, in their failure to speak out constantly and zealously against the damage this administration does against our children and their families, reformers become the kind of “friends” that Martin Luther King warned against six decades ago. The silence of the movement will rightfully be remembered without kindness or charity — and, as seen in the past couple of years, will be repaid at a high cost, both to the movement, and ultimately, to the children for which reformers proclaim so much concern.

The time for silence has long passed. It is time to stand up and be counted.


Photo courtesy of Pax Ahimsa Gethen.

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Betsy DeVos’ Silence is Deafening

Last night, during his State of the Union Address, the current Occupant of the White House did what he almost always does when it comes to undocumented immigrant children and…

Last night, during his State of the Union Address, the current Occupant of the White House did what he almost always does when it comes to undocumented immigrant children and the native-born offspring of undocumented (and even documented) immigrant parents: He denigrated them.

The mother of four who serves Trump as U.S. Secretary of Education, an avowed Christian charged with transforming American public education as well as defending the futures and lives of those very children and youth, sat there, tacitly agreeing with every profanity he lodged against them and their communities.

Given her past record, this is certainly not shocking. But it also shouldn’t be this way. This silence in the face of demagoguery, this acquiescence to policies, practices and ideas geared toward harming our most-vulnerable children and the communities who love them, is one more example of how Elizabeth Prince DeVos is unqualified to lead in American public education.

Contrary to the statement of American Enterprise Institute scholar (and Maryland State Board of Education President) Andrew Smarick, there was a lot of awfulness about Trump’s speech, both in its delivery and its rhetoric. Elizabeth Bruenig of the Washington Post astutely noted that his speech was little more than a litany of “ethnically-inflected nationalism”, that consisted of “scapegoating” and appeals to “creating thick borders between us and them so that we will feel more like an us.” As Dropout Nation readers already know, Trump and is ilk think mothers, fathers, and children who aren’t White or of European descent are the ‘them’ that need to be cleansed from American society.

The fact that Trump didn’t offer much in the way of a thought on education — other than touting vocational education programs long used to keep poor and minority children from high-quality college-preparatory education (as well as fail in terms of addressing the reality that the knowledge needed for success in traditional colleges are also needed for success in technical schools and apprenticeships run by community colleges) — was the only comforting thing about it. Because he didn’t tar systemic reform with his endorsement.

But the worst of his vitriol was reserved for immigrants regardless of legal status.

Trump wrongfully argued that America’s immigration laws, a dysfunctional messy legacy of racial, ethnic and religious bigotry, allows too many emigres to sponsor “unlimited numbers of relatives for citizenship when, in fact, they can only spouses, children, parents and siblings (and even for the last group, it can take as long as 20 years to gain legal entry in the first place). He also claimed that the immigration system’s so-called “visa lottery” — which actually involves a background check, an interview and requirements such as having a high school diploma or two years of training in a high-skilled job — doesn’t have any requirements for entry.

Trump also insinuated that undocumented emigres were little more than criminals. ThisĀ  prominently mentioning MS-13, the gang originally formed in Los Angeles, Calif., that has become a menace to Central American nations since the early 1990s thanks to U.S. foreign and immigration policies (including deporting its members to Central American nations such as Honduras and El Salvador) that have led to more people from those nations (including so-called Border Children that several Congressional Republicans have denigrated) fleeing to our shores. Despite the fact that most MS-13 members are native-born Americans, Trump still claimed that they were an invading horde because of supposedly open borders.

Betsy DeVos has been a silent and willing collaborator in Trump’s bigotry against Black, Brown, and immigrant children as well as their families and communities.

Even worse than that, Trump insinuated throughout his speech that Dreamers, the 780,000 children, youth, and young adults (including 9,000 teachers working in classrooms) who now face deportation thanks to his move last September to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, weren’t worthy of protection or even contributors to American society. This included his declaration that “Americans are dreamers too”, essentially arguing that only native-born Americans are worthy of consideration He also doubled down on the proposal his administration issued last week, which would only allow Dreamers to gain citizenship after a cumbersome 12 year process– even though most of the youths have already been in this country all but a few years of their lives, end up gainfully employed as adults, and been citizens of this country in all but paper.

There was nothing in Trump’s speech that acknowledged how Dreamers working in our traditional public, charter and private schools (including those recruited by Teach For America) are helping native-born and immigrant children gain the knowledge they need for lifelong success. Not one word accepting the reality that America has always been a nation of immigrants, men and women who, despite state-sanctioned bigotry (which always extended to the descendants of enslaved Africans as well as American Indians and Alaska Natives already on this soil), managed to be contributors to the nation’s political, social and economic fabric. What he did instead is engage in even more of his bigoted demagoguery, doubling down on his nasty statements about immigrants made earlier this month during a meeting to work out a deal to help Dreamers gain citizenship.

What did DeVos do while Trump smeared the immigrant children under her watch and the emigres who teach in schools? Nothing. Last night, she issued one statement focused on a meeting she will have with the Occupant today. Then this morning, she issued another, calling on Congress to “to act in the best interest of students and expand access to more education pathways“, a nice way of she wants to keep poor and minority children from accessing traditional higher education and gaining college-preparatory learning.

Sad. Immoral. But not shocking. Because this isn’t the first time Betsy DeVos has had little to say about President Donald Trump’s bigotry.

As chair of the American Federation for Children, she was silent after he won the Presidential election back in November 2016. Instead of demanding that he apologize for his rank demagoguery against immigrant and minority children during his campaign, she declaredĀ  that she would work with him.

When Trump nominated her to become Secretary of Education, she neither refused his invitation nor called on him to recant his bigotry nor sought to distance herself from his nastiness. Again, she said nothing at all, and, in fact, appeared at one of his events celebrating his victory.

Months later, when TrumpĀ false claimed that White Supremacists participating in the Unite the Right terrorism in Charlottesville, Va. were only partly responsible for the violence that resulted, DeVos, now firmly in her job as Secretary of Education, still said nothing. Save for a memo to her staff that condemns bigotry, she stayed silent.

A month later, when the administration announced that it was ending DACA and putting undocumented immigrant children, youth and adults on the path to deportation, DeVos and her minions at the Department of Education offered nothing in the way of a plan to help them. She kept her silence while proceeding to scale back the agency’s role in protecting the civil rights of poor and minority children.

DeVos only seems willing to speak out when it comes to denigrating systemic reform, especially when it comes to the focus on stemming achievement gaps and protecting the civil rights of children. But when it comes to defending children, especially those targeted by the Trump regime, she utters nothing and proves her complicity in the administration’s efforts at low-grade ethnic cleansing.

Of course, DeVos hasn’t been alone in her silence in the face of Trump’s bigotry. Far too many erstwhile school reformers have been all too willing to say nothing. Rick Hess and his team at the American Enterprise Institute, along with other conservative school reformers, have spent more time being the amen corner for DeVos and the administration than being moral champions for our most-vulnerable children.

Save for civil rights-oriented reformers, a few in the conservative and centrist Democrat camps such as former Thomas B. Fordham Institute President Chester Finn Jr., and, most-notably, Education Trust, Emerson Project, and Teach For America (the latter of which has been criticized for its steadfast support for Dreamers), other camps within the movement have stood idly by or have chosen to focus on other things. This is especially clear from weak and lackluster responses from reformers before and after yesterday’s State of the Union Address.

For a number of reasons, including an unwillingness to work with traditionalists such as the American Federation of Teachers (which has also been steadfast in defending DACA youth), they have offered little support for helping undocumented immigrant children, either on the policy front or on the ground in places such as Philadelphia, where they face the risk of detention and deportation just for trying to gain knowledge they need and deserved.

All of these reformers deserve shame. But DeVos, whose family remains a major player in subsidizing the movement, should be especially ashamed. By being more-concerned about ideology and agenda than about defending every child no matter who they are, she has made mockery of her professed faith, violated God’s Commandments (especially in the Beatitudes), and denigrated what was once a respectable legacy of expanding public charter schools and other forms of school choice. Like any Christian, DeVos is supposed to be a living sanctuary, not the tool of evil men. As Jesus Christ, who commanded all of us to do for the least of us, the Children of God, would not approve.

Each and every day, DeVos continues to prove that she is unfit for her office. Yesterday was just another example. For shame!


Featured photo courtesy of the New Yorker.

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