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Teachers Union Boss Tells Critics to ‘Meet Me Behind the School’

WASHINGTON – National Education Association president Lily Eskelsen Garcia said she is “afraid” that Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients, or DREAMers, will “hide” and not come to school after President Trump announced the repeal of DACA last week.

“He cruelly said, ‘Don’t worry, be happy. Congress can fix it, no big deal.’ Donald Trump is playing games with the lives of 800,000 young people and he himself risks nothing. These undocumented young people were brought here as children. They graduated from high school. They have no criminal record. They're young people who did not make the decision to come. They followed their parents. They applied and were granted protected status because of their special circumstances. DACA allowed them to get a driver’s license, to go to work, to go to college, to serve their country in the military,” Garcia said Friday during a National Press Club headliners luncheon in Washington.

“DACA is an unqualified success on every level. It’s humane, it’s just, it’s pumping billions of dollars into our economy to have educated, hard-working, enthusiastic young people paying taxes, buying homes, working, studying, starting their own businesses. They’re our students and we want to comfort them but it’s so hard to tell them that the president can't hurt them. They know the truth,” he added.

Garcia was asked if she thinks DREAMers would “stop showing up at school for fear of being pursued by immigration.”

“Yes. I'm always afraid that someone who is afraid will hide and it would be foolish of me to tell those students that they have nothing to fear. They have everything to fear, and this is the time that we have to be fearless. Them staying home will not solve their problem. Hiding will not solve their problem, but I understand a parent that would say, ‘I'm worried.’ I understand a college student who might say, ‘Someone knows where I live now. Someone knows where my family lives now,’” she said.

“Of course they're going to be frightened. But we have to stand with them and we have to be arm-in-arm so that they know they're not alone,” she added. “It's got to be their decision, their family’s decision. But whatever they decide, they will have to come through us first to get to those students.”

Garcia was also asked for her response to people who “accuse teachers unions of only being interested in protecting the system as opposed to individual students.”

“I can tell you the names of my individual students one by one, hundreds and hundreds over the years. I've got pictures of all of them. Let me see my pictures. I would think that was a set-up question but my NEA team said, ‘Oh, it’s too bad you don’t have pictures of that party.’ I’ve got pictures of everything and these kids are a lot older now but these are my babies. I took these pictures,” she said.