New York, NY — Members of the Bloomberg administration joined on the steps of City Hall together with federal, state and local officials including Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, State Senator Gustavo Rivera, Assemblywoman Grace Meng, Councilmember Jumaane Williams, Councilmember Robert Jackson, Councilmember Danny Dromm, UFT President Michael Mulgrew and The Black Institute to show support for the collaboration with the Department of Education to reach a solution to the immigration status of hundreds of Caribbean teachers’ visas in order to protect their families and allow them to continue working in New York City’s classrooms every day.
Originally recruited by the Department of Education to teach in New York City Public Schools with the promise of a path to citizenship, hundreds of Caribbean teachers have struggled for a solution to their permanent residency status. They, as well as their spouses and children, are currently living under the threat of deportation after building their lives here over the last 10 years.
Councilmember Jumaane Williams recently introduced a resolution urging assistance from the administration on behalf of these teachers. He opened the press conference this morning by stating that, “New York City cannot afford to lose any teachers, much less the approximately 500 fine Caribbean educators that were recruited with the promise of a path to permanent residency and are now at risk for deportation. For over a decade, these teachers and their families have been in a legal struggle, fighting to stay in this city and build a life. Now, it finally seems that the DOE is ready to partner with our efforts to find resolution to this impending crisis. Time is still of the essence though, and we cannot rest until the Caribbean teachers and their families are safely on the road to permanent residency.”
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer echoed his support in stating, “ Everyday our teachers keep their promises to the 1.1 million public school students of New York City; let’s make good on our promises to them. I applaud The Black Institute, Council Member Jumaane Williams and his colleagues for their leadership on this crucial issue impacting over 500 teachers who came to this country from the Caribbean to educate a new generation of New Yorkers, and have been faced with so many obstacles in return. I also want to express my gratitude to Chancellor Walcott and the Department of Education for their cooperation with elected officials and willingness to resolve this issue swiftly. These individuals were recruited by the City of New York, and the City has a responsibility to help them navigate a pathway to permanent citizenship.”
The administration has begun making strides in their efforts to offer a long term solution for the hundreds of teachers stuck in this situation. A representative explains that "The Mayor's Office and the New York City Department of Education recognizes the vital contributions of international teachers to New York City’s schools and New York City’s schoolchildren," said Commissioner Fatima Shama of the Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs. "We are committed to identifying and working for practical solutions that will provide permanent residency for our international teachers."
UFT President Michael Mulgrew said, “These teachers have spent years helping New York City’s students and fighting for our schools every day. New York is their home, and we needs to stand up for them when they need us most.”
Bertha Lewis of The Black Institute has led the campaign to create awareness around the broken promises to Caribbean teachers, and amplify their voices in order to find the solution. “These teachers are the real face of immigration. We need this administration to stand with us in New York and in Washington DC. Working with the UFT, community groups, and the Department of Education, we’ve made great strides toward justice for these families, though the work is still not done. But today, with everyone united, we know that we can finish the job and finally fulfill the promise.” Judith Hall, Chairperson of the Association of International Educators acknowledged these new steps, stating “I am gratified that so many agencies have come together to seek closure to this most troublesome immigration stalemate that has plagued International Teachers for so long. I foresee the momentum being maintained to seek the kind of redress we have long awaited.”
Congress members voiced their support and commitment to finding a solution. “Ten years ago these teachers were recruited from the Caribbean to teach in some the most difficult and poorest schools in New York City said Rep. Jerrold Nadler. "They were promised for their efforts a path to permanent residency, unfortunately promises were made and promises were broken. I join the Department of Education, my fellow elected officials, the Black Institute and the Association of International Educators and urge the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency to change the status of these teachers and provide a path to permanent residency."
Congressman Joe Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx) supports the efforts to create a path to permanent residency, stating “Unfortunately, this situation is yet another example of one of the most pressing issues facing not only New York, but our entire country – and that’s the need for comprehensive immigration reform,” said Congressman Joe Crowley. “Comprehensive immigration reform is more than a national security issue and a moral demand – it is an economic necessity. We need to make it easier for the United States to attract and retain top talent, like these educators who brought their skills and their passion to our city in order to help shape our children’s minds.”
"We are all here today to keep our promises to the men and women who educate our children. As a city, we need to use every tool at our disposal to keep these teachers and their families here in New York City," said Public Advocate Bill de Blasio. "I am relieved the Department of Education is at last coming to these teachers' aid. There is no time to waste in righting this wrong."
Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz added, “The Department of Education placed ads in local newspapers in cities like Kingston, Jamaica, and Georgetown, Guyana, a decade ago. It sent recruiters to a dozen island nations, hoping to lure qualified educators to jobs in New York. Hundreds of teachers who left their homes in the Caribbean to work in city schools are still waiting for their promised green cards later. Still working in classrooms on temporary visas, they say they feel abandoned and vulnerable. Their spouses and dependents are unable to work. We should be applauding their sacrifices and dedication. Instead here we stand calling for the DOE to deliver on their promises. Too many teachers have not been granted permanent residency status. This is just unacceptable. The DOE recruited these teachers to come to NYC, to teach in some the most difficult and poorest school districts. They did what was asked of them. And they deserve to be treated fairly and humanely bring their families with them, and guaranteed assistance in getting permanent residency. I call on The Department of Education to honor that promise.”
Senator Gustavo Rivera has joined the campaign, explaining, "I am committed to working with elected officials from all levels of government to ensure that hard-working foreign nationals who have been serving our students as New York teachers for a decade are able to stay in the United States and more importantly, able to stay in New York, where they have become integral members of our communities. As a State Senator, I am proud to represent all the residents of the 33rd Senate District, regardless of their immigration status. That is why I am here today speaking out on behalf of my constituents and on behalf of all the hard-working teachers in this precarious position."
"The livelihood of these Caribbean Teachers and their families have been dismissed for far too long. They were asked to come to New York and teach our children. They have fulfilled all the requirements that have been asked of them. The cycle of broken promises needs to stop and these teachers deserve to have their permanent visas", said by Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson, Chairwoman of NYS Conference of Black Senators.
State Senator Eric Adams also stands behind the hundreds of teachers determined to find a solution; “I stand in my partnership with my colleagues and The Black Institute in support of the Caribbean teachers who were promised a number of incentives, including pathway to permanent U.S. status, in exchange for immigrating to the United States in order to teach in New York City public schools. In anticipation of promises made by the Department of Education 10 years ago, these qualified and experienced teachers relocated to New York City – many with their families, only to be faced with termination and threats of deportation. These educators – who kept their end of the bargain – are now left with a bleak, hopeless future. I commend my colleagues in government for taking a stand and introducing this resolution to urge the Department of Education to recommit to the promise they made a decade ago. It’s the only right thing to do.”
Members of the Assembly also stood together in recognition of the need to amend the problem faced by Caribbean teachers. Assemblywoman Grace Meng declared, “Hundreds of teachers left their homes almost a decade to fulfill the call for qualified educators in New York. It is an outrage that it is taking more than a decade for these teachers to receive the green cards they so desperately need. These teachers work tirelessly to educate the next generation every day yet now they are the ones who are in need of help.”
"The recruitment challenges of our schools and the hardships these teachers have faced are both indications of the need for an approach to immigration that permits our country and our immigrant communities to grow and meet the needs of our economy and that treats immigrants with the dignity they deserve,” said Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh. “I applaud those who are working on the local and the federal level to address the particularly issues raised here and the broader question of whether the United States will be open to continuing our immigrant heritage as we progress into a new century.”
Assemblyman Keith Wright of Harlem, Chairman of the State Assembly Standing Committee on Labor said, "These teachers, who like so many others, left everything to pursue success in New York City. Their efforts on behalf of our children, families and communities are to be commended and not only do we owe them our gratitude, we owe them the path to citizenship with which we lured them to our schools. It is time for our nation to stand up for those who stand up for us and ensuring that these valuable educators continue to have a place in our society would be a good first step."
Several members of the City Council have become deeply invested in this campaign. "As a former public school teacher, I'm glad to see the DOE is working to keep its promise to keep these Caribbean teachers in the United States," said NYC Council Member and Chair of the Immigration Committee, Daniel Dromm (D-Queens). "These teachers left their homeland to serve NYC's school children at a time when we desperately needed them. Now it is time for the City to step up and defend these teachers."
Councilman Charles Barron added, “The Caribbean and African-American community and all communities of good will must unite around this Resolution. The intellectual and cultural contributions of our Caribbean teachers have been a great enhancement to educational excellence, and they should be rewarded with citizenship.”
Christina Baal, Director of Civic Engagement and Field Operations from the New York Immigration Coalition affirmed, “The crisis faced by the Caribbean teachers is more proof that our broken system punishes everyday heroes. These teachers left their homes to serve the United States by educating American youth but instead of being rewarded, their families are at risk of being torn apart by deportations. We call on USCIS to fulfill the promises made to these teachers and to grant them the green cards they deserve.”
The Black Institute in partnership with the Association of International Educators will remain vigilant in advocating for the creation of a category for these teachers to keep them protected from the threat of deportation.