Three State Boards Weigh In on Dreamers

By Meredith Rossbach

On September 5, 2017, President Trump rescinded the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA) policy, which has allowed undocumented immigrants who entered the United States as children to receive renewable two-year periods of deferred action from deportation and eligibility for work permits. As of September 4, 2017, the law applied to roughly 689,800 children, dubbed Dreamers, who are enrolled in U.S. K-12 schools and colleges, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).

That same day, the Oregon Department of Education and the Oregon State Board of Education issued a joint statement reaffirming that all families and students are welcome at Oregon schools and that the department would continue to support districts, schools, and educators in their efforts to maintain safe, inclusive classrooms. A week later, Michigan’s State Board of Education also issued a statement. The board called on the U.S. Congress to recognize the significant impact the repeal of DACA had on its students and urged swift, comprehensive immigration reform. In its own unanimously approved resolution, the Washington State Board of Education likewise encouraged the U.S. Congress to reinstate DACA, or a similar program, while encouraging all school districts to continue to serve students consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Plyler v. Doe, which held that states cannot deny a public education to a student based on their immigration status.

Other state officials have echoed these sentiments. California’s state superintendent of public instruction, Tom Torlakson, criticized the administration’s decision as unkind and unfair in a press statement, and he urged Congress to reinstate DACA quickly and define a permanent path to citizenship for immigrants. New York Chancellor Betty A.  Rosa and Commissioner MaryEllen Elia called on congressional leaders to “demonstrate true leadership and embrace Dreamers” by allowing them to continue to live in and contribute to their communities.

Some state boards of education, including Kentucky, Montana, Mississippi, and Illinois, have posted links to a U.S. Department of Education resource guide on supporting undocumented youth. Most boards have not had further discussions related to immigrant student safety.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, information in DACA requests was not to be “proactively provided” to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for the purpose of immigration proceedings. On Jan. 9, a federal district court issued an injunction, effective nationwide, that required the Trump administration to resume processing DACA requests. According to USCIS, “The DACA policy will be operated on the terms in place before it was rescinded on Sept. 5, 2017.”

Meredith Rossbach is a NASBE policy intern.