Over a decade ago, the New York City Board of Education recruited a group of experienced teachers largely from Caribbean nations. These skilled professionals were enticed to come to the United States with the clear understanding of a number of commitments. In fact, it was the promises of New York State teacher certification, Master’s degrees, housing assistance and ultimately, a pathway to permanent United States residency for themselves and their families, which prompted them to uproot themselves and their families to teach in our public schools. These teachers have remained in our school system, teaching in license areas where there were teacher shortages, often in low-income, low-performing schools. From the moment these teachers stepped on our shores their immigrant status was set against a ticking clock and entwined in a complex bureaucratic web.
Beginning in 2010, the teachers formed the Association of International Educators (AIE) and launched a campaign with the release of the Broken Promises Report. The Broken Promises Report outlined four areas of concern:
- Lack of permanent residency status (Green Card);
- Legal fees and concerns;
- Principal control; and
- Family member documentation/hardships.
Since the launch of the Broken Promises Campaign, AIE has made significant progress. With the help and cooperation of the New York City Department of Education (DOE), the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the international teachers were able to:
- Change the visa renewal policy, where principals had the power to approve or deny the renewal of a teacher’s visa. Currently this approval lies with the DOE central office;
- Advocate for the protection of teachers, especially international teachers, from the impending layoffs during the summer of 2011;Gained the support of the DOE, the Chancellor and the Bloomberg Administration;
- Establish a working relationship with the DOE, the Chancellor and the Bloomberg Administration, all of whom has committed to resolving issues these teachers face.
There are currently 725 Caribbean teachers and as of March 2012 approximately 39% of the Caribbean teachers await permanent residence.
On April 25, The Black Institute & The New Sanctuary Coalition joined immigrant rights groups in Washington D.C. to march and rally around the U.S. Supreme Court during the hearings on Arizona’s SB 1070. It was a successful and positive experience as clergy and faith leaders lead a “Jericho” walk around the Supreme Court stopping only at the foot of the steps to pray in support of a just and favorable ruling against the controversial bill. The arguments against SB 1070 did not fare well; a majority of the justices, however, are supportive of allowing the "papers please" and warrantless arrest provisions to go into effect. This is a partial victory for the state of Arizona; although this leaves those specific provisions vulnerable to further litigation by civil rights groups. The final ruling will be handed down in late June and even if the justices allow parts of SB 1070 go into effect, the fight is far from over.
International Teachers in NYC (black paper)
International Teachers Betrayed by DOE (slideshow)