Classrooms Without Borders

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LAST FALL, SOON AFTER the Trump administration announced plans to rescind a program that offered protections to young immigrants brought to the country illegally as children, south Texas charter high school teacher Hector Hernandez sat down and wrote a letter of resignation.

With a two-year permit that allows him to work legally in the U.S. set to expire this November, Hernandez realized he would likely have to give up the job he considers both a calling and a means of public service. The chance to become a teacher was also the driving force behind his decision to apply to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program when it first rolled out in 2012.

“I was devastated,” recalls the 31-year-old Hernandez, who was 8 when his parents brought him from Mexico to Texas. “I thought it was best to tell my principal my situation right away and give the school enough time to find someone else.”

But his supervisors at IDEA College Preparatory Weslaco, where Hernandez teaches European history and Advanced Placement human geography, didn’t want him to quit. Instead, they had a question for him: How can we help? Hernandez and co-workers with similarly uncertain immigration statuses soon found themselves on a conference call with IDEA Public Schools founder and CEO Tom Torkelson, who had also brought in legal experts to answer their questions.

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