Caribbean Teachers Still Without Green Cards A Decade Later

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News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Mar. 18, 2011: Dozens of Caribbean teachers recruited from their homelands a decade ago live under the threat of deportation with promises by New York City’s Department of Education to secure them green cards, still unfulfilled, News Americas has learnt.

The plight of the teachers came to light this past weekend as Berthia Lewis of The Black Institute and Judith Hall Jones, a Jamaican teacher recruit who now heads up the Association of International Educators hit the airwaves of WWRL’s “Caribbean Corner” radio show. The two organizations recently teamed up to release a full study on the case titled “Broken Promises: The Story of Caribbean International Teachers In New York City’s Public Schools.”

In the study, it is revealed that in 2001, 500 Caribbean-born teachers, from several countries, including Jamaica, were aggressively recruited by the then New York City Board of Education to come to the United States to work in the city’s public schools.

According to the report, they were promised New York State teacher certification, Master’s degrees, housing assistance and ultimately, a pathway to permanent United States residency for themselves and their nuclear families.

But both Hall and Lewis say the promises were never kept and while the teachers have remained in the city’s school system, teaching in license areas where there are teacher shortages, they have been classed as “unskilled workers” by lawyers filing their labor certifications petitions with New York State’s Department of Labor and many remain caught up in the certification backlog without the promised legal residency.

As such, most of the teachers are forced to live under constant threat of termination and deportation while their spouses and children are dependent on them since they cannot work under the present immigration system.

The teachers group says the stress of renewing temporary work visas has been a constant part of these teachers’ lives for the past decade and the financial costs have been steep since they have paid many thousands of dollars to the DOE’s designated attorneys to maintain their legal status yet many remain in legal limbo.

The AIE want the New York State Education Department to resolve all certification issues for international teachers immediately and to have all certified NYCPS teachers to receive professional EB-2 work classifications on their permanent residency petitions, rather than the less skilled EB-3 classifications the Caribbean teachers have been assigned to date.

The group is also calling for a joint oversight hearing by New York city and state lawmakers to assess the DOE’s treatment of all international teachers and determine their current immigration status; the creation of a special immigration classification for these teachers, enabling an expedited green card process/citizenship and an investigation of how international teachers are recruited throughout the country and a review of how their employment and residency is handled.

The number of New York City Public School teachers who have been certified by the Department of Labor to acquire green cards over the past six years show only 641 have achieved permanent residency status.

This represents less than 20 percent of the total number of international recruits. Of the green cards certified, 276 went to teachers from Caribbean countries. An estimated 19,000 teachers were working in the United States on temporary visas in 2007. The number of overseas-trained teachers being hired in the United States is increasing steadily.

The Board of Education yesterday did not respond to a request for comment on the issue as of press time.

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