When the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was eliminated, I immediately looked up the promise of our Statue of Liberty that reads, “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” This great promise of our country, to be a refuge for those in need, was being spitefully revoked and would have a tremendous impact on hundreds of thousands of children. I wrote down these words and swore to continue the fight for the soul of our nation.
The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, which was originally introduced in Congress over a decade ago, would grant a pathway to citizenship for young people brought into this country, as children, without documentation. These undocumented students are American in every way except lacking citizenship. In 2012, after Congress failed to pass the DREAM Act in 2010, President Obama signed DACA temporarily allowing DREAMers to legitimately live and work in their home, the United States.
On September 5, the Trump administration eliminated DACA, and since then, 122 young DREAMers lose legal protection daily. We are living in a time where we can no longer allow for anyone to live in the shadows. We are living in a time where we can no longer allow our youth to be pushed back into the shadows by fear and hatred. We are living in a time when we must strengthen each other to fight for those who are being silenced.
Educators see first hand the devastating impact fear has had on our DREAMers since September. As an administrator, I carry the responsibility for students and staff. As educators and leaders, we carry the responsibility to act.
California has outlined Professional Standards for Educational Leaders that have been approved by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing California. The sixth standard reads that, “Education leaders influence political, social, economic, legal and cultural contexts affecting education to improve education policies and practices.” As a school leader, I always wondered how the state could expect us to be experts in instruction, culture, curriculum, assessment, parent engagement, behavior, budgets, human resources AND advocacy. While I didn’t see how I could possibly add advocacy to my load, I knew of its importance.
Dr. Feliza Ortiz-Licon, Senior Director of K-16 Education Programs with UNIDOS US, formerly known as the National Council of La Raza, created the National Institute for Latino School Leaders (NILSL) program. The vision of NILSL is to bridge a current gap in the policy arena by infusing the voice of school leaders working with and on behalf of Latino students by establishing and sustaining a cohort of school leaders, from across the nation, who can serve as spokespeople and address pressing issues in education. I became a fellow with NILSL as a member of their second cohort, and became a Master Fellow as part of cohort four. Through NILSL, I discovered the power my voice has in shaping and influencing policy that impacts our youth.
Recently, I had the opportunity to join other NILSL fellows, Dr. Jose Enriquez from Utah, and Alexandra Hernandez from New York, in walking the halls of Congressional Offices, in Washington D.C., demanding a permanent solution for DREAMers by the end of the year. Dr. Loren Trull and Carlos Guevara, from UNIDOS US, guided and provided us with support to make our powerful message clear and direct. Due to the training I received as a NILSL fellow and master fellow, I walked into the offices of three of California’s Republican Congressmen with confidence in my spirit and voice. I was ready and willing to insist that our DREAMers, youth who by all definition are successful and deserving Americans, receive their support in a permanent pathway to citizenship.
Watching Alex and Jose use their gifts to quickly engage with the staff of representatives of their states, and to use every minute allotted to them to tell the story of our youth, was inspiring and renewed my hopes. There are warriors in all states who are working with youth, leading schools, managing staff, and representing their communities. The work of a school leader is challenging and can be overwhelming and fitting in advocacy can seem impossible. Walking those halls, alongside Alex and Jose, two amazing brilliant leaders, brought me peace and hope.
Our nation is built on the promise that we will protect, shelter, provide opportunity, and lift up those most in need. As parents, educators, and members of our communities we must continue to fight for this promise. As of now, Congress has still not acted, and representatives have left the holidays without coming to an agreement on the future of DACA recipients. Our DREAMers need us to continue the promise of our country and contact our representatives to demand they vote to pass a permanent solution by January 19, which is when the current spending bill will expire. Each voice matters. Let them hear us.
Find your representative here:
For more information on the National Institute for Latino School Leaders, click on this link https://www.unidosus.org/issues/education/National-Institute-for-Latino-School-Leaders/
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