Educator speaks out for her DREAMer students


by Félix Pérez

“As a teacher, everything I do is to open up the potential of all my students. To see that limited or stopped just breaks your heart,” said Greensboro, N.C., high school teacher Saletta Urena.

Urena is a world language and Advanced Placement teacher at Ben L. Smith High School, whose 1,100 students speak some 80 different languages. She told EdVotes she was “excited for my students” when President Barack Obama announced in June that hard-working, productive students who have done well in school and played by the rules would have an opportunity to be shielded temporarily from deportation and live and work legally in the United States.

A Greensboro native and educator for 11 years, Urena faults the thinking of elected officials who want to stop deserving, accomplished students from a chance to fulfill their dream of a higher education.

These are bright, dedicated, helpful students who have the talent to become the person who discovers the cure to AIDS, becomes a member of Congress, or hires hundreds of people as a business owner. For politicians to say ‘I don’t feel like investing in you or giving you a chance’ is contrary to what we stand for as educators,” said Urena.

“I am a public school teacher for a reason. I teach whoever walks into my classroom. We don’t distinguish among students based on their ability or where they were born, where their parents come from or their immigration status.”

President Obama, when announcing the “deferred action” program June 15, described DREAMer students this way, “These are young people who study in our schools, they play in our neighborhoods, they’re friends with our kids, they pledge allegiance to our flag. They are Americans in their hearts and in their minds and in every single way but one: on paper.”

President Obama directed his administration to act after nearly every U.S. Senate Republican blocked an up-or-down vote on the DREAM Act.

Click here to tell presidential candidate Mitt Romney to support DREAMer students and to keep open the door to the skilled workforce necessary for our nation to compete globally.

Aspiring student citizens can begin applying August 15 to the program, which is completely self-funded by application fees. Applicants must meet strict eligibility criteria, including:

  1. Are currently in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or the U.S. armed forces
  2. Came to the United States before reaching their 16th birthday
  3. Under the age of 31 and at least 15
  4. Have continuously lived in the United States since 2007, and
  5. Have not been convicted of a felony or a significant misdemeanor.


Missouri’s Lauren Gray, 21-year-old college graduate, Immigration officials spare entrepreneurs’ daughter, CNN Money

Texas’ Eric Balderas, 19-year-old Harvard biology student, Harvard student won’t face deportation, Boston Globe

Arizona’s Oscar Vazquez, 24-year-old who earned a mechanical engineering degree and is currently deployed to Afghanistan, ASU grad who deported self gains legal residency, Arizona Republic

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