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“The Day That Changed My Life, Again”: The Testimonio of a Latino DACAmented Teacher

Abstract

This article, based on the testimonio of a Latino DACAmented teacher, underscores the impacts and benefits of immigration policies for individuals and their communities. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) has benefitted about 750,000 people; most have used the benefits to pursue higher education and to enter public service careers, including teaching and nursing. Mr. Juárez’s testimonio walks us through his educational trajectory and current role as an educator. This testimonio contributes to current debates and struggles demanding the new U.S. presidential administration to maintain DACA. As researchers, we urge students, educators, policymakers, and the incoming administration to listen to the testimonios of DACA beneficiaries prior to making hasty decisions that will have dire consequences for individuals, families, and the nation, as a whole.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The Champions of Change program is a White House initiative that honors and recognizes people and organizations creating change in their communities in an effort to “win the future” (White House 2015). On July 24, 2015, nine DACAmented teachers were honored as Champions of Change for their outstanding work as educators; Mr. Juárez was amongst this group. Interestingly, the Champions of Change event recognizing these DACAmented educators was held a few days after Donald Trump announced his presidential campaign along with anti-Mexican and anti-immigrant remarks (Peña 2015).

  2. 2.

    The green man refers to the border patrol agent, “la migra”, and their highly identifiable green uniforms. Green man is also used in popular culture to refer to “aliens”.

  3. 3.

    Deportability refers to, “the possibility of deportation, the possibility of being removed from the space of the nation-state” (De Genova 2002, p. 439). For undocumented immigrants, the possibility of removal is always present.

  4. 4.

    ICE or Immigration and Customs Enforcement is the agency in the Department of Homeland Security primarily responsible for immigration enforcement and the deportation of undocumented immigrants.

  5. 5.

    Mr. Juárez was admitted to UT Austin through Texas’s “Top 10% Rule,” a statute that guaranteed admission to Texas universities for students with grade point averages in the top 10% of their graduating class. Later the percentage was decreased to the top 7% which would account for 75% of students admitted to UT Austin starting in Fall 2010 (Mr. Juárez’s freshman year). The program was implemented through Texas House Bill 588 following the 1996 Hopwood v Texas decision, which prohibited the Texas universities from considering race in admissions and financial aid decisions (Cortes 2010).

  6. 6.

    Mr. Juárez’s specific reference to his undocumented status, social class, and gender identity in relation to his potential to “fall through the cracks” is significant. As Boehm (2012) points out, the creation of masculinity is “strongly tied” to migration (p. 75.) and, historically, working class Mexican men were considered threats, particularly to the sexual purity of white women (Kitch 2009, p. 98–99).  These dehumanizing narratives about Latino men are at the root of the discourse of Mexicans as “criminals” and “rapists” that President Trump used to launch his campaign (Hee Lee 2015). Such “myths and mythmaking” about Mexican Americans (Valencia 2002) are part of what Latinos like Mr. Juárez must overcome in order to succeed in school and society.

  7. 7.

    The 77th Texas State Legislature that met in 2001 signed House Bill 1403 (HB 1403), granting undocumented students access to in-state tuition. Texas was the first state to adopt an in-state residency tuition policy for undocumented students. HB 1403 changed section 54.052 of the state’s Education Code to clearly define residence status for purposes of tuition and fees in higher education (Texas Statutes 2015). Many felt that the determination of resident status was ambiguous and in 2005 Senate Bill 1528 (SB 1528) was passed to clarify this statute because U.S. citizens born in Texas but that had lived in other states for a period of time made claims to Texas residency for the purpose of paying in-state tuition in universities and colleges in the state. SB 1528 further amended the Education Code to clarify the meaning of “Texas resident” and to set limits to such claim; it also included a stipulation for undocumented students to sign an affidavit stating that they will become permanent and legal residents of the country as soon as they became eligible to do so (Texas Statutes 2015). As Texas residents, undocumented students gained access to some forms of state financial assistance, such as grants, to cover tuition and fees in all state institutions of higher education.

  8. 8.

    According to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, 24,770 non-citizen resident students out of 1,303,684 total students (1.9% of total students) paid in-state tuition under HB 1403 in 2013. This includes Texas public universities, public community, technical and state colleges, and public health related institutions (Bernstein 2015).

  9. 9.

    Mr. Juárez’s statement reflects a common misunderstanding that undocumented immigrants do not contribute social security. In 2010, Social Security Administration estimated that undocumented workers and their employer generated about $13 billion in payroll taxes. In 2013, this same group contributed about $12 billion in social security taxes (Campbell 2016).

  10. 10.

    Here Mr. Juárez is referencing the common misconception that undocumented immigrants take the jobs of documented U.S. workers. However, a recent analysis of Census data by the Urban Institute found that foreign-born workers without a high school diploma perform different jobs (e.g. in agriculture, construction, etc.) than native born individuals who are overrepresented in jobs in the service industry and low-level office work (Enchautegui 2015).

  11. 11.

    Mr. Juárez is referencing a series of high-profile racist nativist (Pérez Huber 2009) events that occurred at UT Austin during his time as a student. These events included “Mexican” and “Border Patrol” themed parties put on by sororities and fraternities and a “Catch and Illegal Immigrant” “game” sponsored by the Young Conservatives student group. After he was quoted denouncing one of these events in the student newspaper, Mr. Juárez became the target of online harassment and attacks.

  12. 12.

    In 2010, 75% of incoming freshmen (including Mr. Juárez) at the University of Texas were admitted under the school’s “Top 10%” rule that grants automatic admission to students at the top of their high school class. That year, however, the students admitted under this rule were actually in the top 7% of their graduating class. The remaining 25% of admitted students went through a “holistic review” that considers multiple factors, including race and ethnicity, extracurricular activities, grades, test scores, etc. In 2013 the U.S. Supreme Court heard Fisher v University Texas, a high profile challenge to affirmative action where the plaintiff, Abigail Fisher, claimed that UT Austin had offered admission to racial and ethnic minority students who were less qualified at her expense. In fact, the university denied admission to 168 Black and Latino students with grades as good or better than Fisher’s in the year that she applied (Hannah-Jones 2016). Although Mr. Juárez’s grade point average was high enough to grant automatic admission, affirmative action challenges like the Fisher case are often premised on the assumption that minority students are fundamentally less qualified than white students (Guinier 2015).

  13. 13.

    Contrary to deficit notions of Latino men and masculinity (See Mirandé 1997), evidence suggests that students of all races have more positive perceptions of teachers of color (Cherng and Halpin 2016) and that male teachers of color emphasize culturally responsive approaches to pedagogy (Lynn 2006). However, in a report on racial diversity in the teacher workforce, the Department of Education (2016) noted that only 8% of the teaching force is Latino while 24% of the total U.S. student population self-identified as such. It is reported that Latino male teachers comprise 2% of the total U.S. teacher force (Lara and Franquiz 2015; Turner 2017). Given this context, Mr. Juárez’s background, skills, and disposition as Latino, male, bilingual education teacher grounded in his community make him a true asset to the teaching workforce. Not only would his presence in the classroom diversify the teaching force but also ensure that students have access to a teacher that understands their experiences and cultural background.

  14. 14.

    Teach For America, in its quest to diversify its teaching corps, is at the forefront of recruitment, preparation, and placement of DACA beneficiaries as teachers. As a way to increase its numbers of Latina/o and DACA beneficiaries, TFA has allied with Latina/o and undocumented youth and student advocacy organization with a national presence, such as United We Dream, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI) (García, under review; TFA 2014). Teach For America reported that, as of the 2016–2017 school year, it has placed 146 DACA beneficiaries as teachers in school districts throughout the country (Cramer 2016).

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Treviño, L.E.J., García, J. & Bybee, E.R. “The Day That Changed My Life, Again”: The Testimonio of a Latino DACAmented Teacher. Urban Rev 49, 627–647 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11256-017-0412-2

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Keywords

  • DACA
  • DACAmented teachers
  • Immigration
  • Testimonio