Monday, June 13, 2016

What a Supreme Court Decision on Executive Action Could Mean for One Undocumented Immigrant

Today, in U.S. classrooms, you will find first, second, or third generation immigrant students. Most of these students are U.S. citizens.  However, among them, there exists an estimated 1.7 million undocumented young people under age 30 who are enrolled in high school, have graduated, obtained a GED, or are currently enrolled in elementary or middle school, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. Each year, about 65,000 undocumented students graduate from American high schools. As undocumented, they are without basic access to the numerous opportunities available to their documented or U.S. citizen counterparts and face significant barriers to higher education. Undocumented students cannot receive federal education benefits, and in some states, may be ineligible for in-state tuition. These barriers add to the social and economic challenges undocumented students already face as a result of their status.

Jong-Min’s Story

Like so many of these students who have aspirations of higher education, I too, came from abroad—Seoul, South Korea—and arrived in the U.S. in 1981 under a student visa. I was only a one-year old baby back then, and when my visa expired in 1985, I became undocumented at the age of 5. I’ve now lived in the U.S. for the last 35 years. I attended public schools, graduating from Stuyvesant High School in New York City in 1998, and later graduating magna cum laude in 2003 from University of Tennessee, Knoxville with a BA in Sociology with a concentration in Criminal Justice and a Minor in Psychology.

Thirteen years later, I am still stuck in my invisible prison behind invisible bars and with invisible chains. This is a prison where my lack of Social Security number prevents me from working, driving, voting, and accessing certain basic human rights, like health care. I am too old for the temporary reprieve from deportation under the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative, as I missed the cut off by a year. If I were a DACA recipient, I would be eligible for a work permit and temporary protection from removal. However, that obstacle has never deterred me, and even though it been many years since college, I still aspire to go to law school, and ultimately become a federal judge.

As the Supreme Court decides the fate of President Obama’s executive actions in United States v. Texas, which includes two deferred action initiatives – an expanded DACA and a proposed Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) initiative  I, along with an estimated 290,000 persons eligible for expanded DACA and over 3.7 million persons eligible for DAPA, eagerly await their decision. In the absence of congressional reform, this is our hope along with our dream to contribute more fully to the country we have long called home.

Additional Resources 

Friday, June 3, 2016

Students Speak Up on Immigration on Long Island

On May 26, 2016, the American Immigration Council invited 69 students and their teachers from selected Long Island schools to discuss historical and current immigration laws and policies at our Teach Immigration Student Forum, a full day event held at the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County, Glen Cove, NY.

Photo: Teach Immigration participating students and teachers in front of the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center, Glen Cove, NY

At the forum, seventh-grade students from Lawrence Road Middle School in Uniondale and ninth-graders from the Brentwood Freshman Center focused on making and articulating historical connections to present day immigration issues and rhetoric. In particular, students closely examined events and policies before and during World War II, such as the Evian Conference, the German steamer MS St. Louis, and the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. They were able to draw comparisons and contrasts to current immigration laws and policies, such as DACA and the expanded DACA and DAPA initiative, challenges to which are before the Supreme Court in United States v Texas.

Photo: Students listen to Ms. Tracy Garrison-Feinberg, Holocaust Museum and Tolerance Center of Nassau County Education Director, describe immigration policies before and during World War II.

Their teachers, Dr. Steven Burby and Ms. April Francis, applied for our two-year Teach Immigration program where we provide educators with free and current educational materials on immigration law and policy and pair them with volunteers who are immigration lawyers. Together, the teacher and lawyer teams have co-taught at least two classroom lessons and helped students find a point of view.

The day of learning was brought to a close by Brentwood native and community organizer, Mr. Hendel Leiva, who spoke with students on the power of voice and social media. He relayed the importance of sharing stories and speaking out with facts -- even if a viewpoint is initially unpopular. Using social media, he demonstrated to students the power to bridge gaps of understanding on immigration through respectful dialogue.

Photo: Mr. Hendel Leiva speaks to students on the power of voice and social media.

One student, Ms. Myriam Arvelo, reflected on what she has learned in her English class and by participating in the Teach Immigration project this year:

“Until ninth grade, I wanted nothing to do with the sadness and pain in this world for I got depressed and thought of the worst for the world's future. Don't get me wrong, I was well aware of the horrors of the Holocaust and America's wars and battles by eighth grade, but I was extremely uncomfortable with the subject and preferred to be distant from the topic all together. I preferred to immerse myself into happy and comical fiction rather than reading the news and recent nonfiction articles on what was going on in the world. However this year, my honors English teacher, Dr. Burby taught me that I have to confront the news and reality no matter how uncomfortable I was with the truth. Because of him, I have a new perspective on learning about the past and having all the facts. The truth of the matter is that we, as intellectual beings, have to educate ourselves on controversial topics such as immigration no matter how uncomfortable we are with these subjects because to be comfortable with a way of thinking, your mind will become narrow and for your mind to become narrow, you'll refuse all other perspectives and ideas which will lead you down a path of ignorance and arrogance which will cause even more pain. So even though I get upset with the history or what is going on now, I want to live a life of enlightenment and in order to do that I will be uncomfortable with these subjects because this is how my mind will broaden.”

To learn more about the Teach Immigration project, please refer to previous posts:

Stay Connected! 

We seek to connect teachers and students with the most relevant, fact-based information to teach immigration critically and creatively–-at no cost. If you like our work, please tell a friend and give them this link to receive updates and free resources such as lesson plans, books reviews, and community grants. Follow us on twitter @ThnkImmigration #teachimmigration.