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How Rescinding DACA Undermines College- and Career-Readiness Standards

Nelson Flores
Tuesday, September 12, 2017
College- and Career-Readiness
English Language Learners

Several years ago, when I was a high school ESL teacher I noticed that one of my best students, who I will call Gloria, became uncharacteristically withdrawn and inattentive in class. Concerned by her sudden change in behavior I pulled her aside at the end of class one day to ask her what was going on. At first, she didn’t want to tell me. Then she began to cry. She shared with me that she was undocumented and that she was worried about what was going to happen to her after graduation. I hugged her and tried to comfort her but I didn’t really know what to say. I felt powerless in that moment and could only imagine how powerless she must have felt.

The prospects for students like Gloria changed significantly when President Obama signed Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in 2012. This executive order protects children like Gloria, who came to the United States before 2007 and when they were younger than 16 years old, from deportation. It also allows them to apply for renewable work permits. DACA is a band-aid to the immigration challenges that our nation confronts and needs to resolve. But it has been an important band-aid for many young immigrants who have previously been forced to live in the shadows. Had DACA been available at the time I had my conversation with Gloria I would have been able to explain to her that she did have options and that she should continue to work hard in school.

Unfortunately, the current administration’s recent rescinding of DACA brings uncertainty back to the lives of many immigrant children and their families. Much of the impact of the rescinding of DACA will be felt by states with large immigrant populations like California and Texas (two of C-SAIL’s partner states), with long-standing immigrant populations. Yet, many other states like Ohio and Massachusetts (two of our other partner states) have growing immigrant populations that will also be impacted by its rescinding. In fact, teachers and students across the United States are coming back to school within a context of vast amounts of uncertainty and fear about what the future holds for the many undocumented children who are in public school classrooms.

Rescinding DACA sends the message to the approximately 800,000 current DACA recipients that they and their families should go back into the shadows. It sends the message to future DACA recipients currently attending U.S. public schools across the country that no matter what they do and how hard they work that they will be forced to continue to live in the shadows. It sends the message to teachers of current and possible future DACA recipients that no matter what they do and how hard they work that they will not be able to prepare their students for the college and careers that they envision for them. It sends the message to all of us that we are a society that is okay with relegating entire populations to a permanent second-class status because they and their families came to the United States to escape poverty, violence, and political persecution without filling out the appropriate paperwork.

Our country has a long and difficult path ahead of us as we try to work toward comprehensive immigration reform. It may seem like this difficult path has little relation to college and career ready standards and assessments. After all, what do DACA and comprehensive immigration reform have to do with Common Core State Standards or state accountability systems? As a former ESL teacher who continues to work in schools with large immigrant populations and sizeable numbers of undocumented students I would say these policies have everything to do with college- and career-readiness standards and assessments. How can we expect teachers to support all students in becoming college and career ready if we as a society are unwilling to create policies that allow all students to access college and careers?