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International crisis

DOE’s broken promises leave recruited teachers in limbo

Elected officials, activists and teachers at the Feb. 27 City Hall Press conference. Bertha Lewis, president and founder of the Black Institute, introduced a report on the international teachers’ plight that she said puts a spotlight on the “hidden nexus of education and immigration reform.”

Teacher Antoinette Nesbitt, who came from Trinidad to teach at Brooklyn’s PS 276, speaks about the DOE’s failure to live up to promises.

The Department of Education still has not fulfilled its promise of green cards for most of the 500 teachers it recruited from Caribbean countries to fill a staggering teacher shortage in 2001.

Hundreds — like Antoinette Nesbitt, recruited here from Trinidad with promises of aid and a green card — face deportation if they are laid off.

Nesbitt, who has taught at PS 276 in Brooklyn since 2001, charged the DOE with “just trying to sweep all of this under the rug” at a press conference on Feb. 27 at City Hall to release a report called “ Broken Promises: The Story of Caribbean International Teachers in New York City’s Public Schools.”

After 10 years of waiting, during which their immigration status made it impossible for spouses and children to work in the United States, the teachers are demanding a meeting with Chancellor Cathie Black and legal assistance from the DOE.

As UFT Director of Staff LeRoy Barr pointed out, “These teachers came to this country in good faith to serve the children of New York City. They should be treated with the dignity and respect they and all other educators deserve.”

Sheila James, a teacher at MS 45 in Manhattan, said, “It’s time to stand up for our rights and take our campaign to another level.”

UFT Vice President Karen Alford assured the teachers of union support, pledging, “We will make sure your voices are heard and that justice is done. The UFT stands with you.”

The Delegate Assembly at its December meeting passed a resolution calling on the DOE and elected officials “to resolve all issues concerning [the teachers’] immigration status.”

As one of the frustrated teachers noted, “The DOE made promises, found us to be qualified as the best and the brightest, but we’re still waiting.”

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