Dallas School District Stands with ‘Dreamers’ on DACA

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File Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The Dallas Independent School District declared solidarity with “Dreamers,” launching a new website feature on Thursday. The website provides resources to families and recipients of the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) now that the Trump Administration plans to end the program.

I’ve had a lot of questions from the community about what will happen to them if DACA goes away,” said Dallas ISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa during a “DACA in Dallas ISD” webpage presentation given to the board of trustees. Hinojosa said he tells DACA recipients, “do not panic!”

“As a member of an immigrant family, I see myself reflected in the faces of your children, and your faces are those of my parents who sacrificed, worked, and dreamed of a brighter future for their children,” stated Hinojosa in a letter to Dallas ISD families on the webpage.

He called it “heartbreaking to see the uncertainty and fear among undocumented families across the country prompted by the recent developments in the federal government’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.”

Hinojosa stated: “While DACA primarily impacts young adults, it has understandably caused anxiety throughout our community.” He pledged that Dallas ISD will provide a “welcoming and protective environment for students and staff” and offer every child a quality education that prepares them for college and a career, regardless of immigration status and the outcome of DACA.

The superintendent did not mention that, in January, the school board voted to shutter four of their longtime failing schools and consolidate another next year to avoid a state takeover of the entire district.

Dallas ISD is the second largest school district in Texas and the 14th largest in the nation. Administrators say they do not track the number of “undocumented” students but indicate roughly 70,000 of them are English Language Learners (ELL) and not all are covered under DACA. The district also employs 78 DACA recipients, of which 36 are teachers.

According to Dallas ISD, 70 percent of 155,862 currently enrolled students are Hispanic. Last year, around 60 percent of their 160,000 students identified as Hispanic. In 2015-16, they reported 70 percent of nearly 159,000 students were Hispanic.

Previously, Breitbart Texas reported that Plyler v. Doe is the federal law protects K-12 students illegally in the U.S. from discrimination and mandates that public schools educate these children. Additionally, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) prohibits schools from turning over student immigration status data to federal agents.

One year ago, Dallas ISD trustees unanimously passed a symbolic “sanctuary” resolution that embraced “the diversity of our students and families and the rich language and cultural assets they bring.” The resolution, posted on the DACA webpage, directed Hinojosa “to ensure that the district ensures” non-citizen students know about “opportunities to gain access to college, in-state tuition, financial aid, scholarships, internships, and career opportunities, regardless of their immigration status.”

DACA in Dallas ISD reads in English and Spanish and promises “inclusive teaching and learning environments” and “social and emotional support to all district families.” It offers links to immigration law assistance, a family preparedness plan, and “Dreamer” resources from the nation’s largest teachers union, the National Education Association (NEA).

The webpage also contains frequently asked questions intended to assist school staff in answering community concerns. It lists “dreamer” college scholarships from a variety of sources including the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), Golden Door, and the Hispanic Scholarship Fund. It houses helpful information on DACA-friendly states, like California where AB 540 students may qualify to attend college and pay in-state tuition versus non-resident fees.

The Dream.US showcases partner colleges, including a dozen in Texas such as the University of Houston, University of North Texas at Dallas, Texas A&M at San Antonio, the University of Texas at El Paso, and the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) where students demanded “sanctuary” status in 2016. Recent UT system “fast facts” show UTRGV has almost 90 percent Hispanic student enrollment, the highest in the state’s four-year universities. Also among the offerings are community colleges in Dallas, El Paso, and Houston.

Several short videos feature Dallas ISD DACA recipient teachers. “I can’t be a teacher if I don’t have DACA,” says Trini Garza Early College High School teacher Luis Macias, who said he grew up in Dallas. He hopes to eventually practice immigration law and then, become an elected official so he can represent the people.

Florida-based pro-amnesty DREAM Act activist Gaby Pacheco also appears in a video, sharing she finally was able to get her green card last year. Pacheco, a director with TheDream.US, advocates for in-state college tuition for non-citizen students. In 2012, as political director for United We Dream, she spearheaded efforts that led to the creation of the DACA program, according to her bio. Pacheco says today she holds three college degrees.

The school district’s DACA webpage also links to the Office of Welcoming Communities and Immigrant Affairs at the City of Dallas. Established in March 2017, it promotes the successful inclusion of immigrants and refugees into the social and economic fabric of Dallas.

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