The White House honors nine illegal immigrant school teachers today. Four of the recognized teachers hail from Texas.
The White House named them Champions of Change for acting as strong role models and “change agents” in their respective communities. The recognition comes as part of the Obama administration program called DACAmented Teachers.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), housed within the Department of Homeland Security, allows for select illegal immigrants living in the United States as children who meet certain guidelines to avoid deportation. Instead, they can live and work in the United States.
When President Obama originally announced the program in 2012, childhood arrivals were eligible for the DACA program if they were born after 1981, entered into the United States illegally before their 16th birthday, resided stateside continuously since June 15, 2007, and lived in the country for at least five years. They also had to be in school or have graduated, possess a GED, or show honorable discharge papers from the US military. Any convictions for felonies, misdemeanors and other threats to national securty or the public safety would squash DACA eligibility. The Obama administration has since expanded DACA by removing age limits to cover additional DREAMers.
As of March 20, 2015, more than 866,638 DACA applications were approved, 223,826 of which were renewals, Breitbart News reported.
The “DACAmented” winners from Texas are Dallas Independent School District (ISD) teacher Luis Juarez-Trevino, who applied for DACA status in 2012 while attending the University of Texas (UT) at Austin, according to a Dallas ISD press release.
The White House honors him for his work to empower and encourage students. Trevino and his family came into the United States from Monterrey, Mexico in 2004. He holds a Bachelor’s of applied learning and development with a specialty in bilingual education. He joined Dallas ISD last year as a fifth grade math and science bilingual teacher.
According to the school district’s press release, Trevino finds his background helpful in working with students and their families, all of whom are Hispanic and some who are also undocumented.
“Because I’m undocumented and come from a similar background of many of my students’ families, being able to connect with the students and parents on a much deeper level directly translates into the success I’ve seen inside of the classroom,” he said.
Another Texas “DACAmented” winner is Austin ISD first grade bilingual teacher Maria Dominguez. She is a member of the Texas American Federation of Teachers (AFT), an affiliate of the second largest teachers’ union in the nation, AFT. Dominguez is active in AFT’s Education Austin and has conducted union sponsored citizenship drives, educational forums, and DACA clinics for the immigrant community with United We Dream, the Equal Justice Center, and the Mexican Consulate, according to the White House website.
Originally from Mexico, the White House chose Dominguez as a Champion of Change for her “efforts helping undocumented Austin ISD students apply for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status” it said in an Austin ISD press release.
Kasfia Islam is a pre-K teacher in Spring Branch ISD, northwest of Houston. She is a UT graduate. Rosario Quiroz Villarreal is a fourth grade teacher in the Rio Grande Valley’s McAllen ISD. She a 2014 Teach for America Texas Corps member. Her passion is working for social justice and with children from underrepresented communities.
California DACA honorees are Philippino Jaime Ballesteros who teaches in a Watts neighborhood public charter school in downtown Los Angeles; and middle school math and Spanish teacher Yara Hidalgo from San Jose’s Sacred Heart Nativity Catholic School. She is affiliated with the Engaged Latina Leadership Activist Program.
Elementary school teacher Dinorah Flores Perez identifies as Mexican and Salvadorian, although she was raised in Seattle and attended the University of Washington. She is a strong advocate for social justice who is working on her master’s degree at the University of New Mexico.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan will speak at the event as will Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council Cecilia Muñoz, a former senior vice president of the civil rights activist organization, the National Council of La Raza.
Actress and immigrants’ rights advocate Diane Guerrero, the citizen daughter of illegal immigrant Colombian parents deported when she was 14 years-old, according to the Los Angeles Times, also appears.
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