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A heartless assault

President Trump just launched a heartless assault on young immigrants and on our communities.
By announcing his plan to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, he’s upending the lives—and the dreams—of more than 850,000 young people. And for what? To stoke resentment and fear?
The DACA program allows young immigrants who were brought here as children to remain in the United States by giving them temporary protection from deportation and permission to legally work. The young people covered by DACA are woven into the fabric of American society. They contribute to our economic growth and our diversity.
Areli Zarate, a proud AFT member, is entering her fourth year of teaching high school Spanish in Austin, Texas. She’s not only an excellent teacher and the head of her department, but she’s also “DACAmented”—that is, she has received DACA status. And like the more than 850,000 other DACA recipients, Areli had to meet many requirements to qualify: She entered the United States before her 16th birthday, passed a rigorous background check, met the various educational or training criteria, and paid a $495 application fee.
DACA status is not permanent; it’s not a green card or a pathway to citizenship. It’s temporary protective status renewable every two years. The average current age of DACA recipients is 26; the average age they came to the United States is 4 years old.
These young adults are no different than you or me: They love America, and many are now teaching in, defending or otherwise contributing to the country that is their home.
Offering protection to DACAmented immigrants was done based on the understanding that America is stronger when we value people and create opportunity to achieve the American dream, regardless of demography or geography.
Trump promised to treat Dreamers with “great heart.” Now he is breaking his promise to teachers, nurses and lawyers who took him at his word. AFT DACAmented members—including teachers, school support staff, healthcare professionals and public service workers, all of whom are contributing to the fabric of their communities—are now at risk of deportation.
This is not the America I know—an America that says one thing to its people and then does another. Betraying DACAmented individuals is betraying the values of our diverse and welcoming nation. It is an affront to the work we do as educators every day, and it erodes the trust we have worked hard to build. We push all of our students to dream big, regardless of their immigration status. Areli, Dreamers and undocumented students, and their families, are living in fear, but they are not alone: We have their backs.
DACA provides young people the opportunity to pursue their dreams and stop hiding in the shadows. These are people who, in many cases, have no memory of any other country. They’ve gone to our schools, they go to our churches, they participate in our union meetings, and they love the United States as much as any of us. The truth is, a Dreamer is as American as you or me.
The Dream Act of 2017 would protect these people from Donald Trump and anti-immigrant demagogues. It would allow people who came here before they were 18 the opportunity to work and go to school, and would provide a pathway to citizenship so that they don’t have to live under the threat of deportation.
The Dream Act of 2017 isn’t just good policy, it also makes economic sense and, morally, it’s simply the right thing to do.
I’m proud of the Dreamers, like Areli, who are AFT members. The fact that Trump made his decision to end DACA on the heels of Labor Day weekend adds insult to injury. This is a fight for the student we serve, the patients we treat, and our union sisters and brothers.
Given Trump’s actions, there isn’t a moment to lose. Congress must act immediately. We are fighting for the soul of the America. Tell your members of Congress to do the right thing and support the Dream Act.
In unity,
Randi Weingarten
AFT President

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