The DACA program the White House said Tuesday it would resscind has been controversial since President Barack Obama began it in 2012. In this demonstration in Atlanta last year, police evicted protesters who blocked the streets outside of the building that houses the local Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices. MIGUEL MARTINEZ/MUNDO HISPANICO
Photo: Miguel Martinez
Photo: Miguel Martinez

Metro Atlanta schools brace for impact from DACA decision

Metro Atlanta school districts are scrambling to figure out how the decision to rescind the Deferred Action and Childhood Arrivals program affects them, as thousands across the state are eligible for deportation deferments through the program.

For 26-year-old Jaime Rangel, one of the “Dreamers” the program covers, anything short of congressional intervention could see him depart the only home he’s known since infancy.

“I celebrated my first birthday here,” said Rangel, a student at Dalton State College currently interning in Atlanta.

The Trump administration on Tuesday announced it is rescinding an Obama-era program that is shielding nearly 800,000 young immigrants from deportation nationwide.Jessica Colotl, a DACA recipient, talks about how DACA has helped her and her family at Kuck Immigration Partners LLC in Atlanta.

Rangel said he’s had conversations since Donald Trump took office about the continued rights for 800,000 with deferred immigration status under DACA, but they hit a fever pitch over the weekend, as anxiety rose as grumblings about the program being ended began to spread. Trump said permits will continue to be renewed for the next six months, giving Congress a chance to intervene before those currently protected lose the right to work and live in the U.S. lawfully.

“I’m disheartened and disappointed for the 800,000 people who have only known this country, who’ve helped this country grow,” Rangel said. “We feel hurt. It’s in Congress’ court now. They have the ball.”

About 2.1 million people in the United States might qualify for DACA deferrals, according to information from Educators for Fair Consideration, which advocates for undocumented residents. University System of Georgia officials declined comment Tuesday on the decision, citing litigation over whether DACA students can pay in-state tuition.

Education activist Chris Stewart, who runs the policy blog Citizen Ed, says the Trump administration’s decision to rescind DACA will do major damage to the country’s public school system, because of the number of students it affects as well as the money those students represent. It also adds to distrust by parents already worried about sending their children to schools.

“For those of us who care about how school districts are hanging on by a thread anyway, this is an additional problem that schools don’t need,” he said. “There are teachers protected by DACA who are essential employees to communities where students aren’t the best served in public schools. We’re talking about a shortage of teachers already. To have one more thing kind of threaten that … .

“It’s such a politically driven decision to make that creates all kinds of unnecessary problems for public school districts.”

Officials from some area school districts said they did not know how many of their students and staff members were impacted by the decision. Fulton County Schools officials said in a statement that they would await further guidance from state and federal authorities.

“We strongly urge Congress to act on the matter before it, providing a structure and stability for students affected by the phased-in termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program,” Gwinnett County Schools said in a statement Tuesday afternoon.

Atlanta Public Schools officials said in a statement late Monday afternoon that they will continue to educate all students, regardless of their immigration status.

“APS is proud to be a district that warmly welcomes each and every student we serve,” the statement said. “We celebrate the diversity of our students and the contributions they bring to the district.”

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