Teach dream


A No Human Being Is Illegal

South Bronx, New York
Photo Credit: Salena Lattera; The Daily Rant

This guide was created by a group of educators and counselors working in New York City Public Schools, as part of an Inquiry to Action Group (ItAG) organized by the New York Collective of Radical Educators (NYCoRE). We work in transfer schools, homeless shelters, international high schools, mainstream high schools and elementary schools. Like many fellow New Yorkers, and some of us, a lot of our students are immigrants, or children or relatives of immigrants. Some of whom are undocumented. We came to this study group eager to learn more about the resources available, the movement happening here in NYC and how we can better support students who, by necessity, are often invisible in the public eye.

A group of educators will also be meeting monthly during the second half of NYCoRE meetings (the 3rd Friday of every month) to continue our work with the guide and discuss how to support undocumented students in k-12 classrooms (for example, starting a dream team at your school). If you wish to join us, please sign up for the NYCoRE mailing list to get updates on meeting times and location (see the NYCoRE tab to link to the website). Special thanks to Jeong Yun for her help making this website a reality.

Why this matters: Critical Moments in the k-12 setting

There are moments that as educators or teachers, we are often a part of creating. They might be the moment when a student first learns of their undocumented status, or is put into an uncomfortable or unsafe situation. Consider these situations as you think about ways to make your classroom and your school safer for undocumented youth:

  • Your school is taking a field trip to a site that requires state ID;
  • Your school is taking a trip out of state and will travel by train, bus or plane. (This could put undocumented youth in dangerous situations if they are traveling without identification);
  • Your students are participating in a public protest; police actions, even at non-violent and permitted actions, your students can be at risk;
  • Talking about college for the first time. In asking why a student hasn’t applied or sought out information, you might find that they haven’t had a space to discuss their options;
  • Assignments that require students to talk about personal history, home, or family;
  • Encouraging students to apply to jobs online or at a job fair. (This can be great practice for a young person but might require a private conversation about what their employment options are);
  • Extracurricular activities that take students away from their often invisible and almost always unpaid responsibilities at home;
  • Taking students to a space where there is a large police presence and the potential to be stopped (even subway stops!).

General Resources

These resources were used during our ItAG and are a good overview of issues related to immigration and challenges faced by undocumented students.

Fernandes, Deepa. Targeted: Homeland Security and the Business of Immigration. New York: Seven Stories Press, 2007.

“In Targeted, journalist Deepa Fernandes seamlessly weaves together history, political analysis, and first-person narratives of those caught in the grips of the increasingly Kafkaesque U.S. Homeland Security system. She documents how in post-9/11 America immigrants have come to be deemed a national security threat. Fernandes—herself an immigrant well-acquainted with U.S. immigration procedures—takes the reader on a harrowing journey inside the new American immigrant experience, a journey marked by militarized border zones, racist profiling, criminalization, detention and deportation. She argues that since 9/11, the Bush administration has been carrying out a series of systematic changes to decades-old immigration policy that constitute a roll back of immigrant rights and a boon for businesses who are helping to enforce the crackdown on immigrants, creating a growing “Immigration Industrial Complex.” She also documents the bullet-to-ballot strategy of white supremacist elements that influence our new immigration legislation.” (From amazon.com)

Gonzalez, Juan. Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America. New York: Viking, 2000.

“The first new edition in ten years of this important study of Latinos in U.S. history, Harvest of Empire spans five centuries-from the first New World colonies to the first decade of the new millennium. Latinos are now the largest minority group in the United States, and their impact on American popular culture-from food to entertainment to literature-is greater than ever. Featuring family portraits of real- life immigrant Latino pioneers, as well as accounts of the events and conditions that compelled them to leave their homelands, Harvest of Empire is required reading for anyone wishing to understand the history and legacy of this increasingly influential group.” (From amazon.com)

For more information about the movie, go to: http://harvestofempiremovie.com/

Living in the United States: A Guide for Immigrant Youth. Immigrant Legal Resources Center. 2007. http://www.ilrc.org/files/youth_handbook_english_0.pdf

“Immigration issues are tricky. There are many ways in which your immigration status – whether you’re a green card holder or undocumented – can impact your ability to get a job, go to college, or even remain in the United States. That’s why we created this resource especially for immigrant youth. We hope you find it useful.”

Kleyn, Tatyana. Immigration: The Ultimate Teen Guide. Lanham: The Scarecrow Press, Inc.

“As the future of our democratic society, youth from U.S.-born and immigrant backgrounds alike will need to make informed decisions on our diverse nation’s behalf. To do so, young adults need to be provided with access to accurate information and varied perspectives about immigration. In Immigration: The Ultimate Teen Guide, Tatyana Kleyn (an immigrant herself) examines the myths and realities of immigration, as well as the laws and policies that regulate it. She explores a number of issues associated with immigration, including cultural clashes and discrimination, the debate on language, undocumented immigrants, and what it means to be an American.” (From amazon.com)

For corresponding curriculum, go to: http://immigrationcurriculum.wordpress.com/

Patel, Lisa (Leigh). Youth Held at the Border: Immigration, Education, and the Politics of Inclusion. New York: Teachers College Press, 2012.

Leigh Patel’s book, Youth Held at the Border, was a key text for our ItAG. It provides a personal but informative look at immigration issues and how they play out in schools and in students’ lives. It also includes a list of FREE Legal Aid services for young people in NYC (p. 13).


Educators for Fair Consideration: http://www.e4fc.org/

“Founded in 2006, Educators for Fair Consideration (E4FC) is a San Francisco-based non-profit organization that empowers undocumented young people to pursue their dreams of college, career, citizenship in the United States. We address the holistic needs of undocumented young people through direct support, leadership development, community outreach, and advocacy. Our programming is designed by and for undocumented young people with support from committed allies.” This is a great resource – just be aware that it is focused on California. They do have a national anonymous intake service: http://www.e4fc.org/legalservices/submitanintakeform.html

Global Action Project: http://global-action.org/video

“Global Action Project’s mission is to work with young people most affected by injustice to build the knowledge, tools, and relationships needed to create media for community power, cultural expression, and political change.”

United We Dream. Dream Educational Empowerment Program:http://unitedwedream.org/about/projects/education-deep/

“The DREAM Educational Empowerment Program (DEEP), a project of United We Dream, is designed to address the barriers that undocumented immigrant youth face as they pursue higher education. DEEP builds strategically aligned collaborations between United We Dream affiliates, K-12 educators, community college and university representatives, and community-based organizations and leaders to create pipelines to higher education for undocumented youth. DEEP works with immigrant youth and their parents and teachers to improve educational access and outcomes for immigrant youth across the country through coaching, training, outreach programs and community collaborations.”

The New York State Youth Leadership Council http://www.nysylc.org/

NYSYLC  is the only undocumented, youth led organization in NY; it has great resources for students and schools.

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