This time of year, millions of parents and their children are preparing to head back to school. In fact, every year the NHCLC sets aside the first Sunday of September as National Education Sunday – a time where thousands of faith communities in all 50 states help equip their congregants to be a part of ensuring high standards for all of America’s children, regardless of race, income or ZIP code.
Unfortunately, heading back to school might become an impossibility for hundreds of thousands of America’s students.
Recent news reports suggest that President Trump is poised to allow DACA to “lapse”. What this would mean for the more than 800,000 DACA recipients is somewhat of an unknown. Since DACA requires recipients to renew their status every two years, all Dreamers would have no more than two years of legal status remaining before their permits expire. For example, if a DACA recipient was schedule to renew their legal status on Sept. 6 – the day after President Trump is allegedly going to allow DACA to lapse – that young person would presumably be in this country illegally on Sept. 7.
DACA of course, is incredibly important for a number of reasons. First it allows Dreamers – those undocumented children who were brought to this country by their parents before they were 16 – to stay, work and live without fear of deportation.
As important but less often discussed, DACA ensures that qualifying, undocumented high school graduates are able to receive renewable, two-year permits to go to college, receive financial aid and in-state tuition.
I’m constantly reminded of the story of Andrea Gonzalez, a Dreamer brought to American as a pre-teen as her family fled food shortages and violence in Venezuela. Initially, Andreas father was able to receive a visa as a church worker. Unfortunately, because of government bureaucracy and administrative red-tape, the battle to renew his visa took years. In fact, it was so long that when their visa application was ultimately rejected, the Gonzalez family had already established their roots deeply in this country. Andrea for example, had been in school for years, spoke English better than Spanish, made many friends, and she was excelling at school.
To protect their children’s future, the Gonzalez family made the difficult decision to stay in hopes that one day, they would be able to restore their legal status in America.
Before DACA, Andrea was a high school senior praying for a chance to go to college. Her application was excellent. She had a high GPA, good test scores, she was an honors student and participated in a variety of extracurricular activities, leadership roles and volunteer service. Andrea heard back from many of the colleges she applied to, but the answer was always the same: “We’d love to have you, but unfortunately, we can’t accept your application because of your immigration status.”
All of that changed when President Obama signed DACA in 2012. While the beginning of her college experience was initially delayed, Andrea was eventually able to get into a good school where she thrived. Andrea recently graduated and received a degree in civil engineering.
Now, as the future of DACA remains in jeopardy, Andrea’s future, along with hundreds of thousands of other Dreamers, has been called back into question. Will they be allowed to finish school? Will they be deported? Will their families remain intact?
It’s young Americans like Andrea Gonzalez who are the real victims of our broken political system. At a time of the year when children are headed back to school, we should be celebrating, supporting, and helping make a way for our all of our young people. We are instead, embroiled in yet another political fight.
We have, as a society, already invested in Dreamers’ educations, we’ve allowed them to work jobs, pay taxes and contribute to the economy. Why would we now, only five years later, ask schools to kick these students out of their classes, and employers to lay them off?
It doesn’t make any sense.
Should President Trump allow DACA to lapse, we will be living in an unprecedented limbo. No one knows exactly what will happen next, but we know what should happen.
Congress must finally move to permanently protect our children.
I applaud House Speaker Ryan’s recent comments acknowledging that this is a problem Congress must fix. He, along with many of us, are urging the president to renew DACA and then defend it should it be challenged by certain states in the courts.
To Congress and the president: it’s time to permanently protect Dreamers and ensure that all of America’s children are headed back to school.
Rev. Samuel Rodriguez
is president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. He has been named by CNN and Fox News as “the leader of the Hispanic Evangelical movement."
Faith and Education Coalition is an initiative of the National Hispanic Christian Leaders Conference (NHCLC). With 2,568 members representing almost 3,000 local churches in 44 states, the Faith and Education Coalition advocates for high-quality education options for all of America’s children.