New York’s teachers have always encouraged their students to be dreamers. Soon, they can be DREAMers, themselves.
The state’s board of regents announced Wednesday it had voted to allow people who immigrated to the United States as children to apply for teaching and other licenses. Once the rule is finalized, young undocumented immigrants — also referred to as DREAMers — will be eligible to earn certification in 53 professions controlled by the education department. In addition to teaching, these include engineering and pharmacy.
“These are young people who came to the U.S. as children,” State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said in a news release. “They are American in every way but immigration status.”
The new regulation was built around a 2012 policy from the Department of Homeland Security under President Barack Obama. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals decree allowed some people who came to the U.S. as kids to ask for deferred action on deportation and to get authorization to work. Obama expanded the policy, nicknamed DACA, two years later in a series of executive orders that inspired immediate lawsuits now awaiting a Supreme Court ruling.
Many Republican presidential candidates, such as Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and tycoon Donald Trump, have vowed to undo DACA and Obama’s executive actions.
But several lawmakers applauded the New York board’s decision Wednesday. Assembly Member Ron Kim wrote in a statement he was grateful the officials had moved to end what he saw as an injustice. Assembly Member N. Nick Perry said it was a humanitarian choice.
“This rational and realistic approach authorizing DACA recipients to obtain teaching certificates will bring some stability to how these young New Yorkers and their families plan their lives, thus providing them with a gateway to realizing their own American dream and becoming very productive citizens of our state,” Perry added.
Not everyone was happy. In a statement to the Press and Sun-Bulletin, State Sen. Terrence Murphy said the board was further harming a broken immigration system. “Allowing lawbreakers to teach, or practice medicine, says a lot about how backwards our priorities truly are in New York,” he said. “This is another example of why rule-making by unelected bureaucrats is what is ruining New York state. Will they next unilaterally enact free college tuition for illegal immigrants?”
New York isn’t the first state to allow undocumented immigrants into the classroom. In Colorado, the Denver Public School system loosened its restrictions in 2014.