Dallas ISD wants its students and employees to be prepared in the event that the federal government allows protections provided by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to expire later this year, district Superintendent Michael Hinojosa said Thursday at event unveiling his district's new website for DACA recipients and their families.
"As a member of an immigrant family, I see myself reflected in the faces of your children, and your faces are those of my parents who sacrificed, worked and dreamed of a brighter future for their children," Hinojosa said in a message to Dallas ISD's parents. "It is heartbreaking to see the uncertainty and fear among undocumented families across the country prompted by the recent developments in the federal government’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program."
Through the website, Dallas ISD attempts to answer many of the questions confronting parents whose immigration status is up in the air because of congressional inaction. There are links to legal services, the city of Dallas' office of immigrant affairs, federal immigration information and a plan to make sure families are prepared if any members of the family are picked up in immigration raids.
While Hinojosa couldn't say how many students' families would be affected by a change in DACA policy — it's against the law for school districts to ask about a potential student's immigration status — the superintendent said that 38 Dallas ISD teachers are able to work for the district because of DACA protections.
"I can't be a teacher if I don't have DACA," Luis Macias, a teacher at Trini Garza Early College High School said as part of the initiative's rollout. "It really is heartbreaking for me. It didn't hit me until I was part of the interviewing process for students [hoping to attend the school during the next school year] that I won't be able to teach them if [DACA] ends in November. It truly breaks my heart."
Hinojosa said Thursday that the district is working to protect its teachers and staff member who might be deported.
"[Our employees who depend on DACA's] contributions, both in and outside the classroom, are vital to prepare our students to become future leaders," Hinojosa said. "As Congress makes a decision on the future of DACA, our attorneys will continue working to determine how we can best support these valuable employees."
Under U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency rules, schools are classified as "sensitive locations," which means the agency won't make arrests or do surveillance on campuses "without prior approval from a supervisor in exigent circumstances related to national security, terrorism, or public safety, or where there is an imminent risk of destruction of evidence material to an ongoing criminal case," according to the agency's website.
Last February, the district passed a resolution affirming that all of its campuses should be "welcoming and protective of all its students and their families to the fullest extent of the law."
Hinojosa said the district plans to unveil a more comprehensive plan to the Dallas ISD board for dealing with the post-DACA fallout if Congress doesn't act to extend the program before recipients' protections begin to expire in March.