School and community leaders stand against ending DACA

President Donald Trump administration formally announced the end of DACA, (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals)—a program that has protected 800,000 young undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children from deportation. Their future hangs in the hands of Congress, who over the next six months must find a plan for these young people.

The uncertainty about DACA students being able to renew their visas or if new legislation will continue to allow them to remain in the only country they know, has millions worried about deportation.

After the announcement by President Trump administration, many local leaders both in Kansas and Missouri spoke out on protecting students in the metropolitan area.

Dr. Cynthia Lane, Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools Superintendent posted on her blog—Dreamers, We Stand With You!

“When I heard that the administration planned to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which allowed almost a million young people who came to the United States without legal documentation to come out of the shadows and reach for the American Dream, my heart broke. That in 2017 we are still acting in ways that target specific ethnic groups is almost more than I can bear. In my community, Kansas City, Kansas, we are a tapestry of cultures. We have always been a mosaic of different races: Black, white, Hispanic, Native American, North African, Southeast Asian and eastern European. Let’s be frank: whether they were born here or brought here, our kids and their families are looking for many of the same things that each of us is pursuing. A quality life, filled with more moments of joy than sadness; a life filled with more opportunities than obstacles; and a life filled with more hope than despair. We are all dreamers! I feel deep sadness, and frankly disgust, at the decision by the Administration to end the DACA program. Has my country changed so much that we are no longer standing behind our nation’s creed of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all men and women? Are we really willing to discard 800,000 youth, who believed in our promise that America would do what is right by them?” said Lane.

The Shawnee Mission School District released a statement regarding DACA students.

“We recognize that the recent announcement to end DACA creates challenges for students and families we serve within the Shawnee Mission School District. We will exhaust all of our dedicated internal and external resources to take care of families. We want our message to be clear: Our schools are a safe place for students. Our job is to take care of all students, staff, and families. Our doors will continue to be open to serving every child and supporting every family. We are hopeful that Congress will answer this call to action and provide legislation to correct this issue. Schools in the Shawnee Mission School District do not and will not ask students or their parents for information about their immigration status.”

Miguel Olvera, 19 year-old student at Penn Valley Community College has been following the news about DACA.

“The first thing that went through my mind when I heard this was that it is unfair and unjust to the DACA students to hold them hostage because of these politics. What surprised me more was Donald Trump sorted made a statement saying he was going to leave them alone, he wanted to keep them here…Donald Trump has said a lot about deporting people, he has made all of these promises, but he hasn’t kept any of them. He is just doing this to please the Republican party,” he said.

Olvera hopes that President Trump will create a program for the students that will let them remain in the only country they have known and not deport them to a country they don’t know.

“People think that the students get everything handed to them, but that is not true. They have to renew their visa every two years, and it is not free, it is expensive to do that. They have to work in order to pay for the application. Last semester, we as students at Plastenn Valley talked about Donald Trump as he ran for president, we didn’t think he would win, now we are just trying to weather the storm and hope that he gets impeached,” he said.

The Mexican Consulate in Kansas City and the Kansas City Public Schools held an immigration program—Know Your Rights Informational Session last Saturday at Northeast High School in Kansas City, Missouri.

Volunteers and attorneys also held a program at the Guadalupe Center last week in Kansas City, Missouri on renewing permanent resident cards and had information if they were interested in becoming a United States citizen.

Latinos and other immigrants living in Kansas City were invited to attend the program. Consulate officials and immigration attorneys were on hand to provide guidance and offered advice for concerned families.

Alfonso Navarro-Bernachi, Head Consulate of Mexico-Kansas City, listened to the families and DACA students as they expressed their fear for their future.

“This decision is affecting the young DACA students, but it is also extended to the families. We are working closely with the community to provide support and information and helping them with information on their visa renewals,” he said.

As Consulate, he advises, “remain calm and seek accurate information from your school or your consulate. I talked to members of the Kansas City Public schools and they are advising students to stay active in their education. We don’t know what is going to happen in six months, we don’t know what kind of legislation the congress or senate will approve, but those with education will be the first ones to have the opportunity with the new laws.”

Besides offering information on the DACA program, the Consulate is also working to inform the community about abuses at the work sites.

“You are a DREAMER, so let’s terminate you, that is discrimination. We want to prevent those abusers; we are receiving many requests about what will happen if my employer decides to terminate me. There is help at the consulate with lawyers, not only immigration but labor law. Visit the consulate or call us or attend community forums that we promote to help you receive the information you need,” said Navarro-Bernachi.

Ed Mendez, principal at Alta Vista Charter School, attended the community meeting held at the Guadalupe Center. He said he became emotional when he heard about Trump’s administration news on DACA students.

“I was upset, frustrated, sad, mad, I was angry. The kids here at Alta Vista are like my own kids. Several of our staff was angry too but at the same time we wanted to find a way to keep hope for our kids. We are talking about advocating, reaching out to our congress representatives and telling them to enact legislation over the next 6 months to help our students,” said Mendez.

At Alta Vista School, they gave the students the opportunity to talk about the announcement by White House administration that the DACA program may end.

“We have kids who are angry, emotional, and wanted to know if they had just renewed their visa can they renew again before the March 2018 deadline. We have a couple of students who had not renewed and it expired so now they don’t have an option because they are not accepting applications. Many of our kids are feeling hopelessness. We must figure out how we can keep them hopeful and keep their dream alive,” he said.

Kansas City Public Schools Superintendent Mark Bedell released a statement in response to Trump administration announcement.

“This decision makes me angry, sad and determined. Let me make this clear—I will oppose anything that makes it more difficult for our children to succeed. I will steadfastly defend all our children, including Dreamers,” said Bedell.

The DACA program was initiated by former President Barack Obama to prevent the deportation of young, undocumented immigrants and to provide them a path to citizenship.

Bedell added, “I have had too many personal interactions with these young people to simply stand by while this nation pulls the rug out from underneath them. I have seen how much it means to them that they can pursue their dreams. This order is aimed squarely at some of our most vulnerable families. It has the potential to become a nightmare for our children.”