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Denver Threatens to Deport Striking Teachers

After the union announced a strike, the district sent out a letter threatening teachers work visas if they walked out

Brian Young's picture
Jan 28, 2019

When employees band together to take action against their employer many different forms of intimidation are often used to silence them. Threats to their employment, blacklisting, and false promises are some common threats that employers use, but for immigrant workers bosses often use the threat of immigration issues to keep their workers quiet. Usually, these employees have questionable status and are unable to amplify their voices because they are not in a union.

In Denver Colorado, teachers recently voted to go on strike unless a new collective bargaining agreement was reached. In response, the Denver Public Schools (DPS) Human Resources department sent an email letter to school administrators that threatened to report teachers on visas to immigration officials if they chose to participate in the legal strike. While visa holders are allowed to work in the United States legally, if they are here on a work visa and the employer informs ICE that they are no longer working they could be removed from the country.

This action represents a marked change from the district’s normal policy. In 2017, the Denver Public Schools Board of Education unanimously passed the “Safe and Welcoming Schools Resolution.” This resolution clarified and explained that Denver Public Schools are “committed to providing safe and welcoming spaces where all students are able to focus on their education, secure in the knowledge that the District will support their safety and emotional well-being regardless of immigration status, national origin, race or religion.”

According to the district, of the 5,600 educators in the union 128 are working on H-1B or J-1 visas. This is especially egregious as teachers who are working here on a J-1 visa are here as part of cultural exchange programs. I wonder if our teachers in their country are being threatened in the same way.

In the days since the letter was sent, the district has attempted to backpedal. District Superintendent Susana Cordova, only on the job for 3 weeks, claimed that a rogue human resources employee sent the letter. She later said that no one would be reported to immigration for going on strike.

Yet the union says the damage has already been done. In an editorial for In These Times, four teachers said “By naming and threatening educators on visas, DPS has created divisions within the very community it was entrusted to protect. It has perpetuated the continued classification of immigrants as “other,” and has reminded them that the value that DPS places on them extends only as far as their functioning as political pawns to disrupt a lawful strike.”

How can a teacher who is here on a visa trust the district after a threat like this? If one human resources employee could send this email to teachers in the district, what is to say that they won’t send the list to ICE? Plus, this is a common tool used by employers to intimidate striking employees. Make the threat, then walk it back, leaving doubt in the employees’ minds about what your real intentions are.

It is time for this kind of strike breaking activity to end. Call DPS at 720-423-3556 and let Taylor know that this type of anti-union behavior will not stand.

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