DENVER (CBS4) – Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo is calling for the superintendent of Denver Public Schools to resign over a program that allows for the hiring of teachers who came to the country illegally.
The program is part of a directive from the Obama administration called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, and DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg says the district was the first school system in the nation to hire teachers under the program.
One of those teachers is Kareli Lizárraga, a seventh-grade English teacher at the STRIVE Preparatory School’s Sunnyside campus located on the 4700 block of Pecos Street.
“I feel very much a part of this country and I’ve been living in this country since I was four,” she told CBS4.
Lizárraga, 22, is an undocumented immigrant. She came to the United States from Mexico as a child and excelled in the classroom. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, she was one of two people hired by DPS last year as part of DACA. The controversial plan allows qualified undocumented workers who came to the country before the age 16 to live and work here legally.
“This is such a wonderful opportunity, and I’m just really grateful to be in front of my students and be in a classroom,” she said.
Many of Lizárraga’s students are also undocumented (as are many students in the DPS system as a whole), and Boasberg says Lizárraga’s presence in the classroom allows the children to see the possibilities in their lives.
“To see their teacher — an Ivy League grad who is bilingual — is an extraordinary inspiration to them about what they can do and what they can achieve,” Boasberg said.
Tancredo says there are countless unemployed teachers in the country who are legal residents. He says hiring teachers who are not U.S. citizens is a slap in the face.
“It’s a terrible idea and I think Boasberg should actually resign after making such a stupid decision,” Tancredo said. “In what other kind of profession are we going to look for people who are here illegally first before we look for a legal citizen of this country. Is that not bizarre?”
Lizárraga says she understands the politics of the situation, but her goal is to make a difference.
“I’m working my best to show this is going to have an absolutely positive impact on our community and on our students,” she said.
Lizárraga is one of two teachers at DPS who was hired through DACA. More are expected to be hired next year.