DPS to Hire Previously Undocumented Immigrants

Nelson Garcia, KUSA (Denver), April 10, 2014

Long before Alejandro Fuentes Mena became a fifth grade teacher, he was an undocumented immigrant from Chile.

“I came to the United States when I was four years old,” Fuentes Mena said.

In August, he started at the Denver Center for International Studies at Ford Elementary School as part of effort by Denver Public Schools administrators to be the first school district in the nation to actively seek out teachers people who were initially brought to the United States illegally.

“These young men and women bring extraordinary talent to our classroom,” Tom Boasberg, DPS superintendent, said. “We have many, many kids whose stories are like Alejandro’s.”

DPS is working with Teach for America to bring in people with an official status of “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” as determined by the federal government. Part of the requirements for DACA status is that a person must have been brought to the United States under the age of 16 and have a clean criminal record. {snip}

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Boasberg estimates that the 10-to-20 percent of the school’s district’s population are undocumented.

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Boasberg says it is challenging for DPS to find good billingual teachers to serve its Spanish-speaking population.

“In order to meet that demand, we actually go overseas,” Boasberg said.

Fuentes Mena is one of only two teachers with deferred action status within DPS. Boasberg hopes to increase that number to more than ten for the 2014-15 school year. Members of the Walton family, the founders of Wal-Mart, made a large private donation to help pay for teachers with deferred action status to go through the Teach for America program.

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