Have you asked yourself any of the following questions lately:
- Do you think there might be DACA recipients, DREAMers, or other undocumented students at your school?
- Are you afraid to ask?
- Do you want to show your support but don’t know what to do?
- Are you uncertain about recent policy changes and what it means for students in your community?
Sometimes when tackling an advocacy issue, we can find ourselves overwhelmed by conflicting information and the various suggestions on who to call and what to say. In this blog post, the SupportEd team will provide you with five clear actions that you can take to advocate for DACA recipients and DREAMers in your context and links to resources where you can find out more information. We’ll begin with a little context for you.
DACA and DREAMers Background and Terminology
Before we get to the recommended actions for supporting undocumented students, let’s briefly consider some background and terminology. DACA stands for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. It is an immigration policy enacted in 2012 that allowed qualifying undocumented immigrants to receive a two-year deferred action from U.S. deportation. To qualify, individuals had to have immigrated to the U.S. before the age of 16 and lived in the U.S. since June 15, 2007. Once receiving DACA status, they were allowed to legally obtain a driver’s license and work. DACA was rescinded in September 2017. DACA students, as well as other undocumented students, are often referred to as DREAMers. This name was derived from the DREAM Act, a legislative bill first introduced in 2001 that aimed to give conditional residency to undocumented immigrants that were brought to the US as children and met certain requirements. And now on to the actions you can take….
1. Get informed: The first action to take is to learn more about the change in policy for DACA recipients and applicants and the Dream Act of 2017. There are several advocacy organizations, such as United We Dream, that are working hard on behalf of undocumented students. They provide up-to-date information about what DACA recipients should know and what immigrants and their allies can do. Colorín Colorado also provides current information for schools on policy related to DACA as well as a list of mental health and other resources for students and their families, especially those who are English learners and may need extra support. An organization called Immigration Advocates provides a National Immigration Legal Services Directory that identifies nonprofit organizations across the country that provide free or low-cost immigration legal services.
2. Offer a safe space: In this political climate, it’s more important than ever that students and families know who their allies are. Many DACA recipients and DREAMers are very afraid of what may happen to themselves and their families. They face each day with uncertainty. As an ally, you should be sensitive to these fears and create a safe place for your students and their families. Consider putting up a poster on your door or classroom wall (if permitted by your administration) to show that you’re an ally. One option is to print a free copy of the “Hate Has No Home Here” sign.
Along with creating a safe space, there are additional strategies to consider. Be cognizant of the terminology that you use to speak about undocumented students, and avoid using terms like illegal or alien. Don’t expect students to share their immigration status with you, and don’t ask them about it. Instead, make information for undocumented students easily accessible and in their preferred language to acknowledge they are in the process of learning English. For example, does your counseling office have a list of scholarships that undocumented students can qualify for available for all students? Also, look for opportunities to normalize the experience of undocumented students by inviting undocumented students or DACA students who have gone on to higher education to share their experiences. If you can’t bring in students, you can show videos of DREAMers that speak about their experiences.
3. Collaborate and share information: As with any advocacy work, it’s essential that you seek out other allies and remember that you are not alone in your work (NEA, 2015). Look to immigrant families, colleagues, and community members to collaborate with you in your efforts. Host family nights where you provide interpreters in English learner families’ home languages and share information about scholarship and post secondary education opportunities. Make sure that all your colleagues have access to information about the rights of DACA recipients and DREAMers and possible pathways to higher education and/or careers. In addition, inform yourself about the types of services that are offered by local community service organizations such as legal aid and mental health counseling that you can share with families and other educators.
4. Contact your representatives: Another action to take is to get politically involved in this issue by calling Congress and urging your representatives to defend the rights of DACA recipients and vote yes on the DREAM Act. The Center for American Progress has put together a list of the members of Congress that will be instrumental in getting the DREAM Act passed and Indivisible provides state-specific information and a possible script to use when making your call. Also, consider joining an immigrants’ rights rally to get inspiration and show your support.
5. Build agency: Finally, look for ways to support and empower immigrant students and their families as they develop their voice and strengthen their own advocacy skills (Staehr Fenner, 2014). Sponsor student-led activism clubs and share information about steps that other activists are taking. Support events that give DREAMers an opportunity to connect with one another, share information and resources, and meet mentors and allies in the community. In addition, educate students about other marginalized groups and what they have done to work for social justice (Educators for Fair Consideration, 2012).
We hope that this blog post offers you some new strategies and resources to support you in your work of advocating for DACA recipients and DREAMers. What advocacy work are you doing? What other resources would you like to share? Please join the discussion in the comments at the end of this blog post or join the discussion on Twitter using the hashtag #Advocacy4ELs.
- Advocating for English Learners: A Guide for Educators – D. Staehr Fenner
- All In!: How Educators Can Advocate for English Language Learners – National Education Association
- DACA – National Immigration Law Center
- Dreamers and DACA: Information for Schools – Colorín Colorado
- Supporting Undocumented Youth – U.S. Department of Education
- TESOL International Association’s Position Statement on Immigration Policy and Reform in the United States
- Top 10 Ways to Support Undocumented Students – Educators for Fair Consideration
- Undocumented Latino Students and the DREAM of Pursuing College – F. Contreras
- Header image source: United We Dream
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