Defend DACA, defend our students

Look to local members of Congress to protect vulnerable families
By Chris Reykdal, Washington State superintendent of public instruction | Sep 15, 2017
Chris Reykdal

Imagine entering 10th grade at a high school in Washington state. You’re excited about your classes, about seeing your friends after a summer apart, about learning to drive.

Also imagine not knowing, on a sunny October day or a windy January day, if this will be your last day at that high school, in that city, or even in our state.

That’s what many students face, after President Trump rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. (Editor’s note: While rescinding DACA, the president has delayed action, giving Congress six months to address the problem.)

DACA began in 2012, when President Barack Obama signed an executive order. In short, the order allowed undocumented immigrants who met certain criteria to stay in the U.S. for a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation.

In other words, it provides stability.

Since the order was signed, more than 800,000 people nationwide have applied for and received DACA status. That number includes thousands of K-12 students.

Our state’s public education system exists to help ALL students learn. That foundational concept is clearly stated in Article IX, Section I of our state constitution:

It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders, without distinction or preference on account of race, color, caste, or sex.

DACA gives students hope. It assures them they don’t have to worry about being deported; instead they can spend their energy on learning. They can join clubs and sports teams, make long-term friends, and think about college and participation in their community.

Our state Legislature recognized these students when it passed the REAL Hope Act in 2014. The bill allowed qualified undocumented students to apply for federal financial aid, and it added $5 million to the state need grant. It shows that the educational attainment of all students truly is a bipartisan issue.

Rescinding DACA will extinguish hope. Students who could have become productive members of society may be forced to return to a country they never knew. They may be forced from their homes and torn from their loved ones.

DACA originated because a proposed bill, the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, known as the DREAM Act, failed to pass the U.S. Congress.

A version of the bill was reintroduced this July. I’m asking our congressional delegation to support the DREAM Act, and to move quickly if the president cruelly takes away vital protections of undocumented students. It is time for members of Congress to do everything they can to ensure our students feel the stability that every young person should feel. And I’m calling on the public to put pressure on their local members of Congress to protect these vulnerable families.

Please let them know that education should be for all children.

 

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