NEW YORK --- This past weekend, The Association of International Educators (AIE) joined with The Black Institute to hold a press conference to confront the DOE. Rallying on the steps of City Hall, teachers demanded immediate action and response to the lack of support from the DOE, which has resulted in the 10-year uphill battle to get on the right path to permanent residency.
Judith Hall, Chair of the AIE, stood up to introduce the AIE, stating, “America is purported to be a country where one can find justice and equality. We have been classified as unskilled workers and are treated as indentured servants. How is this possible when we were chosen because we were the best and brightest our countries had to offer? This is an egregious situation and we are demanding redress on the city, state, federal and international levels.”
Today The Black Institute releases a report on behalf of the AIE entitled, “Broken Promises: The Story of Caribbean International Teachers in New York City’s Public Schools.” According to the report, these teachers, lured into this country by prospects of continued educational opportunities, housing assistance, and the promise of a path to permanent residency in the United States, uprooted their families in the hopes of redefining a better future. Recruited by New York City Public Schools beginning in 2001, the AIE was formed by Caribbean teachers who continue to feel victimized. The Association provides them with a support group, as well as the opportunity to combine efforts to find a solution. Bertha Lewis, President and Founder of The Black Institute stated, “The ‘Broken Promises’ report highlights the hidden nexus of education and immigration reform. These teachers were recruited 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. Promises were made, promises were broken; this report calls upon the DOE to keep its promises.”
Members of the AIE leadership each stood up to address four specific promises made, none of which has come to fruition for the majority of teachers recruited since 2001. First and foremost, the lack of established residency and immigration status; the mounting legal fees and concerns; the responsibility and control put into the hands of school principals; the concern of family members aging out and overall fear of deportation. Antoinette Nesbitt explained, “ Teachers are professional role models for school children every day in the classroom, yet this process of our teachers obtaining green cards has been drawn out over many years because the Department of Education chosen attorneys have classified us as unskilled workers. This classification is costing us financially. We have to pay visa related fees annually and we experience lost income because our spouses and dependents are unable to work.”
Laris Stone, a member of the AIE leadership, spoke to the key demands that were unveiled at the press conference, outlining each demand on the City, State, Federal and International level. Following Stone, leadership member Judith DeFour-Howard, iterated their urgent request to meet with Schools Chancellor Cathie Black to address these demands and give New York City Public Schools the chance to live up to their promises.
The United Federation of Teachers has become a key ally to the AIE, working alongside The Black Institute. UFT sent a FOIL Request to the DOE in November of 2010 in order to gauge the number of teachers affected by this situation. To date, this request has not been fulfilled. However, it is estimated that the number of international teachers recruited under the Caribbean Recruitment Initiative who have been unable to secure permanent residency far outweighs those who have