2 June 2014

Editors Note: Ana M. Fores Tamayo teaches part time in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area of Texas, a state that dwarfs California in size and has quite different education codes. Given both states’ proximity to the border and demographic similarities, CPFA’s Director of Publications Pamela Hanford asked Ana to give us a view of events in Texas.

What do adjuncts, undocumented students, K-12 educators, and the North Texas Dream Team all have in common? I have been having a hard time coming up with a cohesive way to tie these disparate ideas, but bear with me: I am not mad, and things will fuse. Our commonality has a lot to do with our shared vulnerabilities and hidden strengths.

I live in Texas, a flat soulless terrain, inhabited by unfriendly-to-adjunct folks, and educators of all levels who are much talked about but not much listened to.

In Texas, we adjuncts think we are alone, we are too different and out of reach, and we have worries no one else shares. And yes, we are most likely all these things. We have all these troubles, and probably more. One of the difficulties is that because Texas is a right-to-work state, adjuncts here are basically closeted and scared. We are everywhere, but we are in the shadows and hidden, much like the DREAMers who are undocumented. But now, many of these DREAMers are DACAmented, and they are trying to go to school or find jobs and go on with their lives: against all odds and proud of their new DACA standing (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals).

Adjuncts, like DREAMers then, should do the same. We should come out of the shadows.

K-12 Educators Recruitment Scam

I first came across what was happening to the teachers of the Dallas area Garland Independent School District (GISD) and their deportation scandal back in February because one of the DREAMers I knew was reading about the case. The GISD K-12 teachers on H-1B visas were being questioned because of irregularities in their status, stemming from the District’s misuse of the visa program and its recruitment of foreign teachers. I wanted to get involved.

https://mlsxn5zltaia.i.optimole.com/DdeNyDM.m7zY~11c8d/w:auto/h:auto/q:75/http://cpfa.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/NM_GARLANDTEACHERS1_36521179-1.jpg
From left: Alfonso Casares Tafur, Bernardo Montes-Rodriguez, Elizabeth Niño de Rivera and Francisco Javier Marcano are among the teachers recruited under Garland ISD’s H-1B visa program who have lost their jobs and residency status and now face deportation. Garland ISD said Tuesday that its former HR director misused the H-1B recruiting program for financial gain. (Evans Caglage/Dallas News Staff)

This particular DREAMer belonged to END, or Education Not Deportation —a part of the North Texas Dream Team, NTDT— which works on deportation cases. The cases these young, mostly undocumented volunteers deal with are about poor working class folks who have come here for a better life but are now faced with deportation. In the process, they are split from their children, parents, spouses, and brothers or sisters who might also be DREAMers. But the key points are that these people are poor, undocumented, and are faced with endless hurdles of fighting a system that too easily dismisses them.

Here, though, was a very different case.

It was not the usual circumstances presented to the DREAMers. These teachers were here legally. They were educated. They had been brought here by GISD to teach Garland’s children. It was GISD who had screwed up, and now it wanted to shirk its responsibility. These DREAMers could have set the case aside, but they did not. They saw people in need and did not ask questions. Instead, they reached out to help as they would anyone.

DREAMers Take Action

The NTDT took organized, measured steps, showing passion, commitment and focus. Soraya Ronco stayed up all night, researching similar deportation cases and accounts of abuse by school districts bringing in people on H-1B visas, promising them the world and then dropping their cases. Other DREAMers went with us to meet the teachers to learn their side. Abraham Ponce, the END national lead, volunteered to meet with Bernardo Montes at the GISD superintendent’s office. Montes was one of the five teachers whose deportation papers were coming up the most quickly. He was scheduled to meet with the District General Attorney and school lawyers, and he asked for our help specifically. He knew the school district was about to throw him, with the rest of the teachers, under the bus.

The next few weeks were a flurry of action. We met with the DREAMers’ Action Team, headed by Ramiro Luna, who planned press releases to not only shed light on these teachers’ personal stories, but to bombard the public with the numerous discrepancies at the Garland school district. The educators also decided to hold a press conference with the DREAMers before the district’s monthly board meeting. They wanted the public to know that in their hometown this scandal was affecting not only these teachers but their children, too. The DREAMers and teachers coordinated what they would wear, what they would say, and whom they would talk to — all together as one.

END Protest in TX
“Our Press Conference just started!” The North Texas Dream Team and HB-1 visa teachers come together for a press conference March 25, 2014. (mbasic.facebook.com)

Lessons in Courage

As I watched these young people work with the Garland teachers, my heart swelled with pride, and I wondered, ‘Why can’t adjuncts do the same?’ I see us in fear always. I see how we want to speak, yet we don’t. I see how resigned we are to our plight. I see how I stand alone, telling DREAMers, “Adjuncts are with you, but it’s complicated.”

But then I see how these undocumented youth swell the streets with their banners and their voices, screaming “¡Si se puede!” while the ‘law’ takes their rights away, while universities charge them out-of-state tuition even though they have grown up here, while they drive hours to go to school or work in order to get ahead. And while they help others when they themselves need help.

https://mlsxn5zltaia.i.optimole.com/DdeNyDM.m7zY~11c8d/w:auto/h:auto/q:75/http://cpfa.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/North-texas-Dream-Team-2011.jpg
North Texas Dream Team 2011

As I heard one of the oldest DREAMers, Marco Malagón, tell a roomful of people at the GISD board meeting how teachers like these had changed his life — teachers who had done nothing wrong, indeed, who had excelled at their jobs even as society was getting ready to deport them — how could I not be moved?

Working Together

We do not know what will happen to the 200 teachers still left without permanent visas, or to the particular teachers who sought our help. We hope they find the legal aid to stay in this country, where they want to remain, and that the appropriate people who belong behind bars are apprehended.

But most of all, as you think about adjuncts and DREAMers and K-12 teachers, I want everyone to understand that we all have something very real in common. We are not all the stereotype: strange proud solitary folk from Texas, the Lone Star State. We are not the folks who will not speak, who cannot walk the walk, who will not listen. We understand these Millennials have a passion, and they do things because they see that it does not matter who we are —whether we are rich or poor or black or white or old or young — if we need help, they will be here for us.

So we should be there, too. After all, we are all in this together.

The passion of those DREAMers worked better in this particular case because they were guided by the Garland teachers who tempered their youth with their wisdom and their pain. But the teachers worked better, too, because they were injected with the passion these young adults felt, and they were invigorated by it.

Think what we could do together, if DREAMers everywhere —not only in Texas— came together with us? If we turned around and asked them for help? As adjuncts, we need them, their passion. And I am sure they might like a little help from us, too. After all, many of them are trying to go to school. We can certainly help them with the school part of that equation.
So why don’t we think about getting the most vulnerable faculty who teach the most vulnerable students to do the most invulnerable of things?

We sure would be unbeatable then!

In sol(idarity),

Dr. Ana M. Fores Tamayo

Ana M. Fores Tamayo
Adjunct Justice
Petition: http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/better-pay-for-adjuncts
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/AdjunctJustice

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