Schools And Latino Organizations In Kansas And Missouri Brace For End Of DACA

Sep 5, 2017

Protesters demonstrate in favor of DACA and DAPA, which defer action against immigrants living in the U.S. illegally.
Credit Joe Brusky / Flickr — CC

Many organizations and schools in Missouri and Kansas that serve Latino families blasted the announcement Tuesday from Attorney General Jeff Sessions that the Trump administration will end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in six months if Congress fails to act.

“These folks have passed background checks, have paid taxes and have done everything they were supposed to do. It’s now time for Congress to pass legislation and have the courage to do it,” says Irene Caudillo, CEO of El Centro in Kansas City, Kansas.

She took both President Trump and Session to task. “Neither one defended these young Americans who are teachers and members of the military, engineers, first responders for goodness sake,” Caudillo says.

El Centro and many area educators have been worried about the end of DACA since the election, Caudillo says.

DACA temporarily granted legal status to children who were brought into the U.S. illegally by their parents when the children were young. DACA was created by President Barack Obama with an executive order. Sessions argued that was an overreach by Obama and only Congress has the power to grant such status.

While nothing will change for six months, emotions are running high. Ed Mendez, principal at Alta Vista, a charter high school in Kansas City, says students are scared for themselves and their families.

One student, he says, was already in the office overwrought.

“She is crying. Very emotional," he said on Up To Date with Steve Kraske. "I would say the climate of those that it’s impacted is being felt already here and, I’m sure, in Missouri and across the country. It’s devastating.”

Mendez says 30 t0 40 percent of his students have DACA status, which allows them to work legally, get a drivers license and go to college. “It’s allowed them to be, to come out from the shadows, if you will, and be part of society,” he says.

Ending DACA could present an especially difficult problem for school districts. Kansas City Public Schools Superintendent Mark Bedell says the district has supported all students no matter their immigration status.

“We will continue to maintain a position of supporting all students – all means all, regardless of immigration status," Bedell said on Up To Date. "Hearing this information and trying to figure out what’s going to happen over the next six months is another level of anxiety that is now placed on our students and those members within our Latino community."

Rep. Roger Marshall, a freshman from the 1st District in western Kansas, said in a statement that resources need to be spent on "getting rid of bad people" and not on people brought here by their parents.

"The young people covered by DACA are not just a statistic on a DHS report," Marshall, a doctor, said in a statement. "These are friends of my children, brothers and sisters of babies I’ve delivered, and members of my community. They didn’t put themselves in this position, and my heart goes out to them."

In July, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt along with nine other attorneys general signed a letter asking the Trump Administration to phase out DACA and gave Tuesday as the deadline to do so. In a statement Schmidt called DACA a "cruel illusion" and says the issue can only be resolved by lawmakers. “The Trump administration’s actions today return the issue to the only place constitutionally empowered to resolve it: The United States Congress."

Some local institutions have fully embraced DACA students. Over the last several years, Kansas State University has been aggressively recruiting DACA and other students who are in the country illegally, using privately raised money to provide grants and scholarships.

Sam Zeff covers education for KCUR and a member of the Kansas News Service.  He's also co-host of KCUR's political podcast Statehouse Blend Kansas. Follow him on Twitter @samzeff.