Undocumented educator realizes her dream to teach with DACA

Maria Dominguez, educator and activist

By David Sheridan and Stephanie Luongo

In May of 2012 Maria Dominguez didn’t know what her next step would be. She had just graduated from college, but knew that her employment options would limited due to her undocumented status.

She was driving in her car when she heard that President Barack Obama issued the Executive Order enacting the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy. Maria broke down in tears of joy. She knew then that she would be able to realize her dream to become a public school teacher.

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Maria came from a small town in Mexico to the United States at the age of nine with her mother. Her father was deceased. It wasn’t easy, but for the next 24 years, they made a life for themselves in Austin, Texas. Maria overcame daily fears of living in the shadows to earn a college degree, which is difficult to accomplish when you’re undocumented.

Today Maria Dominguez is a bilingual elementary school teacher and a leader in her union, Education Austin.

Maria is very worried. She worries that she, her mother and her brother will be deported. And she also worries about the undocumented immigrants that she continues to advocate for, including her students and their families.

“For me, the election was devastating,” Maria admits. “I took it personally. I felt it showed that many people don’t understand how hard we immigrants work, how much we contribute, and how devoted we are to this country.”

President-elect Trump has said that when he takes office he will end all of President Obama’s executive actions, including DACA, which currently protects some 750,000 undocumented immigrants from deportation.

Despite the uncertainty of what will happen on immigration policy in the incoming administration, Maria is heartened that some cities, universities and school districts have declared that they will have safe zones. “It’s great to see our allies rallying to our cause,” Maria says. NEA has developed school board resolutions that designate districts as Safe Zones. These resolutions contain reassurances for students, procedures for law enforcement and information and support for families and staff.

Already community pressure and activism has resulted in the introduction of the bipartisan BRIDGE Act. Introduced by Sen. Richard J. Durbin, a Democrat, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican, this bill would extend three years of protection for DACA recipients, people who came to the U.S. as children. “The BRIDGE Act would provide us protection in the short-term, and for that we’d be grateful, but it is not a solution,” Maria emphasizes. “We need comprehensive immigration reform.”

Maria’s message to undocumented immigrants has not changed: “You matter. Your story matters. You are part of the fabric of this country.”

Reader Comments

  1. THE MAJORITY OF TEACHERS welcome immigrants. Very few — fewer than 10% — of these teachers are socialists. I guess you yearn for witch hunts but predators like you can very quickly become prey. Be careful what you wish for.

    1. Well, if its written in uppercase, it must be true. You do not have to be a socialist to be prone to ignore federal law, but it sure seems to help. It will be interesting to see how the so-called sanctuary cities react and continue to protect illegal alien law breakers when federal funds are cut off or reduced.

      Perhaps someone can explain why we ought to let people who are here illegally use facilities that working citizens’ tax money pays for. Then, complain there is not enough money for schools etc. Seems quite illogical. Maybe its a socialist thing.

      I think it was Margret Thatcher who noted socialism is a great thing until everybody else’s money has been spent. But less than 10% of teachers are socialists. What then is the argument to allow illegal aliens to stay here?

  2. I have long held that educators’ unions should stay out of politics. In Florida educators’ unions have usually backed Democratic candidates. It is a majority Republican state, however, and the elected Republicans have exacted their revenge against teachers. Unions could advocate issues that would benefit education, such as a larger education budget, preferred use of lottery money, a book for every student (print or digital as appropriate), etc. Instead, backing candidates and hot political issues has left Florida teachers with annual contracts, a requirement they pay their own pension contributions even though we accepted lower wages for decades based on the cost to school boards of paying our pension contributions, and on and on. On this issue, the union should advocate assisting teachers to deal with what is in their classrooms and communities. I strongly believe immigration reform is necessary and agree with the union’s position. What I do not agree with is that the union takes a position.

  3. Is there a difference between undocumented and illegal? Seems like we ought to use the most descriptive terms to be sure there is clarity in our communication. Why do the PC police ‘admirerers’ seem to not want to face reality? What is so magical about breaking the law? I will have to admit that I do not get why it is so acceptable to break and ignore the laws. More significantly, I do not understand how so-called educated people can support the idea that it is OK to allow criminals to stay in this country, support them with our tax money then complain there is not enough money for education. Baffling.

    1. The difference is that “illegal” is offensive to many immigrants, both documented and undocumented. In part, it is because it lumps immigrants in with people who have committed violent crimes and other crimes against persons and property. Millions of “illegals” actually arrived legally and overstayed their visas. You seem particularly angry about this issue. Most immigrants work and pay taxes and do not expect to be supported by your tax dollars. Some, it is true, work the system and get things they are not entitled to. Some people born here work the system too. As to “what is so magical about breaking the law”, our founding fathers broke the law and revolted to form this country. It is a country of promise and for those brought here as children, it is heartless to snatch that promise from them and send them to a country they cannot even remember.

      1. Illegal is illegal and Plyler v. Doe needs to be immediately overturned so that ALL illegal aliens are deported and know that America is taking back the right of the citizens! Go back and make fix Mexico!

      2. Well, then say ‘ undocumented immigrants’ in every instance. Just saying immigrants is also misleading, lumping those who have taken the steps to become citizens with those who didn’t, which is too criminal, as if you didn’t know.
        America already is saddled with millions of purposeful “anchor children”. I don’t think the forefathers knew this kind of game was going to be worked to the “nth degree” when the constitution was set up. Try that in Canada or any other nation, including Mexico, and see what happens to you and the “anchor babies. ‘ Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like Trump at all, but this is one issue that every President has been trying to tackle in this country.

  4. According to the President’s Executive Order of 2012, this teacher has every right to continue with her fine work. Thanks NEA for bringing this story to light.

      1. More executive orders: limit oil exploration, pardons, reduced sentences for felons. Good use of the executive authority grant to a president.

  5. This women is teaching ALL children. She is to be
    admired for all she had accomplished. We are fortunate to have her and others like her. Unless you are a Native American you too are an immigrant. We should welcome her and others
    like her. Our Lord welcomes all. We need to appreciate the diversity of our country and
    welcome the diversity available to us.

    1. The country has had an immigration policy since it was siezed from the Native Americans. It is for protection of our current citizens of all races and to protect our borders, just as Canada and everyone other country does, including Mexico and Poland, despite anyone’s personal belief.

  6. We are all immigrants unless you are a Native
    American. I am grateful she is here. She has much to contribute as do others like her. She
    should be proud of what she has accomplished
    and we need to welcome all others. Our Lord sees no differences. Let us welcome all immigrants to our country.

    1. The simple answer is that those running the organization have jobs that promote a socialist agenda, the Democratic party and without publishing such nonsense their reason to be would evaporate. They would be out of jobs and would actually have to work or do what they support: live off the government : ie, working tax payer money

  7. What has this woman done to become ‘legal’ ? She ought to be deported as she is here illegally and she ought to be concerned. She can then apply to return using legal means

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