LatinaLista — Every argument I have ever heard about why the DREAM Act — the bill that grants citizenship, affordable college access and the opportunity to enter the military to young undocumented students who were brought to this country as children and meet certain criteria — makes sense.
It makes sense that by allowing these students to attend college and put their degrees to work they’ll earn higher salaries with more money to spend in the economy, thus helping to fund cash-strapped Social Security. It’s a no-brainer.
It makes sense that if more of these students knew they could complete their career goals far fewer would drop out of school, get in trouble, get pregnant or join gangs. It makes sense.
It makes sense that the United States would want to keep the knowledge, talent and skills that were nurtured in the American educational system and capitalize upon them for the good of this country rather than lose that potential to another country. It just makes sense.
But there is something that doesn’t make sense.
It doesn’t make sense that in this country we have DREAM Act students now graduating from colleges, some with honors, who not only can’t work but must sit on the sidelines and watch workers imported from other countries to do the work they can and should be doing.
A case in point is bilingual teachers.
In the state of Texas, bilingual education is considered a shortage area when it comes to teachers to staff those classrooms. Because of the high percentage of students whose first language is Spanish, many districts throughout the Lone Star State are designated “bilingual districts.”
What that means is that any school district is “required to offer bilingual classes if 20 students on a given grade level speak the same primary language.”
Now, with all the students that have grown up in the Texas bilingual educational system and have gone on to become bilingual teachers, one would think there wouldn’t be a shortage in Texas, of all places.
Every time these school districts go to Mexico or another Spanish-speaking country it’s for the same reason: a shortage of qualified local bilingual teachers.
The reason is simple. The hundreds of undocumented students who have graduated from college with bilingual teaching certificates aren’t eligible to teach because they’re undocumented.
Students who grew up learning U.S. curriculum, being a part of student life that is uniquely American and knowing firsthand the frustrations and challenges of being a second language learner in a U.S. school are routinely pushed to the side just to bring in teachers from other countries who have their papers, but little else.
Foreign teachers don’t have the experience of living in U.S. society so they can’t fully relate to student problems. They don’t have the familiarity with U.S. history or teaching methods to provide the kind of continuity these students need as they progress through the U.S. educational system.
And the scariest part is that schools really don’t know who they are getting.
In recent years, the shortage sent Waco Independent School District (WISD) officials to Monterrey, Mexico, to recruit bilingual teachers through the Region 4 Education Service Center international teacher certification program.
In three years, the district hired about 20 Mexican teachers.
The school board voted in March to stop the practice of hiring internationally until officials can be assured the candidates undergo rigorous background checks.
The decision arose after bilingual kindergarten teacher Fernando Campos was arrested by Waco police on child sex abuse charges.
Campos was recruited through the Region 4 program.
If the Waco school district had been able to hire a DREAM Act graduate, there would have been no doubt about their background. Their entire school history, grades and employment background would have all been on record or easily confirmed by phone with no language barriers as when happens if calls have to be made to Mexico or Spain.
It doesn’t make sense that the students who identify as being American, have grown up, participated and graduated from U.S. schools and gone on to college are kept from working while what they can do is being outsourced to people who have no love for this country and for whom many English is not properly spoken.
More so in education, a bilingual teacher should have excellent command of both languages so as to model that for children. Recruiting teachers from Spanish-speaking countries runs the risk of one language being dominant over the other. In this case, English always takes a back seat.
In 2006, there was a Dallas Independent School District trustee named Joe May who recognized the absurdity of bringing in teachers from Mexico and Spain to do the work that local undocumented graduates could easily do.
He spearheaded a push to get people to realize that it just made sense to hire these students. Unfortunately, at the height of his fight to get these students recognized, he died.
That the fight is still going on after Mr. May’s death is what doesn’t make sense.
The SEIU.org has published a list of senators to call to ask them to vote for the DREAM Act.
It’s a bill that doesn’t just makes sense — it makes common sense.