How will doubts around DACA impact K-12 ‘Dreamers’?

Despite political wrangling, many school districts are expanding supports for these students
By: | November 13, 2019
The fate of tens of thousands of K-12 students and staff rests in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court, which is currently deciding whether to continue legal protections for immigrants brought to the U.S. as young children.The fate of tens of thousands of K-12 students and staff rests in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court, which is currently deciding whether to continue legal protections for immigrants brought to the U.S. as young children.

Some 98,000 immigrant students—who were brought to the U.S. as young children without legal permission—graduate from high school each year, according to research released earlier this year by the Migration Policy Institute.

That’s far above the previously estimated 65,000, the report said, adding that 27% of the students are in California and 17% in Texas. They are commonly referred to as “Dreamers,” based on never-passed proposals in Congress called the DREAM (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act.

Recent political wrangling over the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) has made the future uncertain for these students who want to stay in the U.S. to work or go to college, the report said. (Implemented during former President Barack Obama’s administration, the program allows young immigrants living in the country illegally who were brought here as children to remain in the U.S. It conveys temporary protection from deportation and permission to legally work.)

“While high school graduation represents an important milestone in the lives of many young people, these graduates will be at risk of deportation and will face severely limited opportunities to pursue further work and education,” noted the Migration Policy Institute’s report.


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According to multiple reports this week, the Supreme Court may be on the verge of ending DACA. NPR reported that conservative justices expressed strong doubts about the program when questioning lawyers representing “Dreamers.” The New York Times reported that the court could rule in a way that ended the program but made some provisions for young people protected by DACA.

The American Council on Education and dozens of K-12 and other higher ed organizations have filed a brief in the case supporting the “Dreamers” and their access to college. DACA protections have made high school graduation and college enrollment more likely for these students, Chalkbeat reported last year.

And an estimated 9,000 DACA recipients work as teachers and teaching assistants, according to another Chalkbeat article.

Students across the country are taking action. In San Jose, California, on Tuesday, about 100 students walked out of school in protest to show their support for DACA, KPIX-TV reported. Students also rallied this week in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, The Aspen Times reported. And northjersey.com, part of the USA Today network, told the story of two sisters, one who has DACA protection and one who does not.


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Los Angeles USD has expanded immigrant student services in recent years. “We’re bringing more prevention and early intervention services to schools so students can get the services and not miss school, and have access to better health care quicker,” Pia Escudero, the director of the student health and human services division, told District Administration earlier this year.

Meanwhile, many districts continue to find ways to improve services for English-language learners, particularly through dual-language programs. For example, Omaha Public Schools in Nebraska offers a dual-language program in 10 elementary schools, three middle schools and one high school.

In Schaumburg School District 54 in Illinois, ELLs participate in a biweekly writing assistance program after school. In 2018, more of the district’s ELLs met English proficiency standards than ELLs in any other system in the state.


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