Educators look to Congress to finish job started by President Obama’s immigration action

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by Félix Pérez

Kari Johnson, an elementary school teacher in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, was at home when her husband told her that President Obama announced he was taking executive action that would help bring a halt to the separation of children and families.

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“I literally jumped when I heard the news,” said the typically reserved Midwesterner. “I’m so glad President Obama spoke with the nation, because our immigration system is broken. Educators have been working for a long time on this issue on behalf of our students.”

Johnson knows of what she speaks. In April of last year, she, along with more than 50,000 educators, students, clergy, elected officials and activists attended a historic rally on the steps of the nation’s Capitol to tell Congress to pass commonsense immigration reform for students, their families and millions of aspiring Americans. She was also invited to share her story and that of her students on a tele-town hall with 5,000 other educators.

“As  a teacher, my priority is to make my students feel safe and welcome. Unfortunately, some of my students have this constant worry of learning they lost a parent when they get home,” said Johnson. “I feel so happy that the president’s announcement will help my students and their families.”

Kari Johnson
               Kari Johnson

Yesterday, President Obama carried his immigration reform message to Las Vegas, speaking at a high school with a large Latino student population. He was introduced by 26-year-old Astrid Silva, whose story he shared from the White House Thursday night.

“Astrid was brought to America when she was four years old. Her only possessions were a cross, her doll, and the frilly dress she had on. When she started school, she didn’t speak any English. She caught up to other kids by reading newspapers and watching PBS, and she became a good student. . . And today, Astrid Silva is a college student working on her third degree.”

The president’s account of Silva’s journey was especially meaningful for Angie Sullivan, a Las Vegas elementary school teacher to whom Silva turned for help years ago.

“President Obama told Astrid’s story to the nation. Immigration reform is about keeping our families together, about working hard and achieving our dreams,” said Sullivan. “I want all my students to have opportunity and to not be scared that someone they love will go missing.”

President Obama’s executive action not only expands the number of students who can apply for deferred deportation, but it extends the deferral to many of their parents.

“Millions of our students and their families are being given a chance to come out of the shadows of society and the fear of deportation,” said Utah teacher Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association.

gladys marquez
               Gladys Marquez

Gladys Marquez, a high school teacher in Blue Island, Illinois, recounted how a former student, as a result of President Obama’s executive action, will now be able to see her mother for the first time in three years. “I’m beyond thrilled. I have students who are at the top of their class who will now be able to aspire without fear. It’s a glimmer of hope, a jump start for students and families that will give them peace of mind.”

Marquez, Eskelsen García and Sullivan agree President Obama’s executive action represents a big step toward creating a “more fair and more just” immigration system, but they said students and their families need permanent reform.

“It can’t be just up to President Obama. Congress needs to get its act together and work for a solution that fixes our broken immigration system once and for all.  It’s a national problem that affects all of us,” said Johnson.

Eskelsen García said President Obama’s executive action is “a temporary fix. Congress has a lot of work to do. We need comprehensive legislation for all our students and their families.”

Reader Comments

  1. I would have to suggest that anyone who thinks this latest amnesty program, by any other name, is other than just that…. well I got some swamp land in Arizona to sell. Illegal, illegal, illegal: keep saying it out loud until it sinks in that anyone here illegally most likely has no sense of following the laws of this country. Why should we allow illegal entrants to this country to stay here? In Massachusetts we want to allow illegal aliens to get in-state college tuition at the state’s colleges. Many people who are here illegally are accepting substandard wages to do manual labor jobs. This makes these jobs unavailable to unskilled citizen laborers with the net result of lower wages for everyone, and ‘welfare’ in whatever form, paid to Americans who are not working. Illegal is illegal, regardless of what the Emperor wants to do by proclamation. Now our schools are obligated to teach students who can’t speak English. No one know where all this nonsense will end, only no time soon.

  2. As obstructionist as some Republicans have been on this issue, I wish the president would have tried to take advantage of the post-election offer of bipartisanship rather than issue executive orders he knew would only increase the gridlock and jeopardize any cooperation on other issues as well. Taking them at their word and challenging them to follow through by passing the Senate bill that went further than his orders sounded the right note. That so-called “gang of eight” bill had the backing of some leading Republicans. The timng of his remarks is a negative as is his decision to reverse his earlier statements that he did not have such authority. Issuing what he did when he did played right into Hous opponents’ hands.

  3. I am very disappointed in our president. I am an educator and I am not happy with what he did. I have seen what it has done to our schools. I have seen what abuses it has dine to Federal money to get parent and children to learn English. I have seen the lack of help and support for their children to be a productive American and the lack of the illegals knowledge about what it means to be an American. I have seen the arrogance of illegals who feel they are I titled to all the benefits America has to offer to Americans. I have seen how illegals are infiltrating our education system and trying to change our culture. I am disappointed and can’t believe our government is not stopping this tragedy. All I can do is hope God will intervene and stop what I see as a decline of our democracy. I don’t care what anyone says English is the primary language of our country and no one should be allowed to ignore the requirements to stay in this country. I am a second American and a decendant of German/Russian parents. I am a proud American and stand by the laws that require those who come here must honor and learn the language. The broken system is only broken because the laws are not enforced by our government.

  4. Anyone who thinks that a person who came to this country illegally ought to be allowed to stay, very seriously needs to examine their vision of what laws are for. Illegal aliens, I’m sorry undocumented aliens, are a burden to this country, a slap in the face to every alien who worked to enter and stay in this country and anyone who contributes to the common advancement of America.

    If someone is here illegally, they can not vote, so they have no voice in the future of the country. There are so many logical arguments to support the deportation of anyone here illegally, it makes one wonder why the government would do otherwise. But then, the word logic appears and the simple answer is: get votes for the social agenda.

    1. Bob Foley,
      Even the President made it clear that those undocumented immigrants his Executive Action will provide protection , will not get to vote, will not get welfare benefits and will not be covered by Social Security or Medicaid. Recent immigrants (2007 or later), will not be protected by this Executive Action. The seven to 16 year old’s will not be eligible to register to vote until 2018. The individuals who crossed the border when they were 17 or older, are in their mid-twenties or older, probably served in the military or worked as laborers and became a part of their community fabric. Most came to join other legal family members. Many have gained good educations, most have learned our language and are generally participants and donors to churches in their community. The studies based on real data and considered un-biased by politics say their presence is a net gain to our economy, not a burden. When the legal immigrant does come out to vote, it tends to favor Democrats. That is not likely to change even if the Executive Action had given an avenue for voting sometime in the future.

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