Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) signed a state bill this week allowing some undocumented immigrants with temporary work authorization to receive teaching licenses. The bill is part of Sandoval’s plan for a “new Nevada,” the Associated Press reported.
Uriel Garcia, a 22-year-old undocumented Nevada State College student, would benefit from the bill, which allow immigrants granted temporary legal presence under president’s 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to pursue teaching licenses. Garcia has been “waiting for a couple of years now” to pursue a career as an elementary school special education teacher.
“I need this bill to student-teach,” Garcia told ThinkProgress on Thursday. He explained that he had to stop his college education because he couldn’t fulfill his practicum at Nevada State College, which requires that he get a student teaching license. He expects to begin student teaching in 2016, then to receive his full teaching license by the spring 2017 semester.
“This bill opens the door for me to accomplish my goal of becoming a special education teacher,” Garcia said. “When I came to America from Mexico, a lot of people gave me the support I needed to transition from one culture to another, one language to another, so [that experience] motivated me to be[come] a teacher and do the same thing for other kids.”
— Governor Sandoval (@GovSandoval) May 13, 2015
Garcia crossed the southern border at the age of 12 after his dad was killed. He said that he “received the support I needed” and was inspired by the teachers at his magnet school, which was geared towards kids who wanted to become teachers. He also said that the teaching license would allow him to “finally” pursue his dream career, even despite the fact that his DACA status could be taken away by the next president in 2016.
Nevada is part of a multi-state lawsuit that challenged President Obama’s executive action to provide deportation relief for up to five million undocumented immigrants. Although Nevada’s Attorney General Adam Laxalt was the one who joined the lawsuit without discussing it with Sandoval, the governor has previously stated that Obama “overstepped his authority” with the executive action, the Las Vegas Review Journal reported.
When asked what he would do if his DACA was ever revoked, Garcia responded, “it will really be a disaster because if my DACA rolls away, my teaching license goes away. My whole future rolls away.” Even with work authorization, DACA recipients’ career opportunities are limited because they are not able to receive many kinds of professional licenses. A 1996 federal law prohibits undocumented immigrants from receiving professional licenses like those issued to lawyers and teachers, but leaves it up to the state to “render an undocumented immigrant eligible to obtain such a professional license through the enactment of a state law.”
It was only last year that California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed legislation that would require 40 licensing boards under the California Department of Consumer Affairs to accept professional license applicants regardless of legal status by 2016.
Nevada has a population that’s 25 percent of Hispanic and at least 7.6 percent of Nevadans are undocumented, making it the state with the highest proportion of undocumented immigrants per capita.
Last year, the Denver Public School system in Colorado partnered with Teach for America to hire DACA recipients as classroom teachers under an alternative teaching process that may not require them to be licensed. Since then, 44 DACA recipients have become Teach for America members placed in ten regions across the country. An estimated ten to 20 percent of the Denver Public School student population are undocumented, while about one-third of the 87,398 student population are English-language learners.
Students whose teachers share similar backgrounds are able to learn the material better, according to an educational technique known as “culturally responsive pedagogy.” A 2002 study into the teacher-student relationship in 15 school districts found that teachers’ “affective behaviors are a source of motivation and influence the achievement” of the minority students in those districts. Another study found that educators who teach with “a strong component of authentic caring and compassion increased the achievement and graduation rate.” And responding to cultural diversity has also been linked to “higher test scores in mathematics.”