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A Message from the TESOL President & Executive Director Addressing Immigration Executive Orders

by Dudley Reynolds and Rosa Aronson | 02/01/2017

In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

These words by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., sound more relevant than ever to the TESOL community, as we witness with increasing dismay the impact of the Trump administration’s latest decisions. Friends and colleagues, we cannot and must not be silent.

Last week, the President of the United States issued a series of executive orders that have a direct impact on TESOL professionals, their students, and their communities. One set of executive orders authorizes constructing a U.S.-Mexico border wall, eliminating federal grant money to sanctuary cities, hiring 5,000 more border patrol agents, and ending “catch-and-release” policies for undocumented immigrants. Another executive order imposes a 120-day suspension of admissions to the United States for people who have been granted refugee status and visas, and a 90-day ban on travel to the United States from citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries: Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, and Sudan.

The immediate effect of these orders has been devastating to the populations we serve, in particular international students, immigrant students and their families, and our own TESOL community. The spirit of these orders goes against the core values that guide our work as an organization:

• Professionalism demonstrated by excellence in standards, research, and practice that improve learning outcomes
• Respect for diversity, multilingualism, multiculturalism, and individuals’ language rights
• Integrity guided by ethical and transparent action
• Commitment to life-long learning

TESOL International Association has issued a public statement strongly opposing these executive orders. Although the impetus for this statement has been the events unfolding in the United States, we recognize that policies aimed at marginalizing immigrants and excluding refugees are becoming increasingly commonplace worldwide. To help you respond to and learn about these issues, we have  provided a comprehensive list of tools and resources on the TESOL website, that you may use or adapt to ensure equitable treatment of your students and their families.

Please rest assured that TESOL International Association will actively oppose any proposed policy that seeks to discriminate, diminish, or weaken our communities of English language learners and educators. 

To this end, the association is taking the following steps:

1. We have set up a special discussion group in myTESOL called “Impact of U.S. Travel and Immigration Changes,” where we encourage you to share stories about how these recent executive orders have affected your ability to promote quality English language teaching. We also hope that you will use this group as a venue for sharing constructive actions teachers can take.

2. We are exploring possibilities for joint action with other organizations serving English language learners and educators, including the filing of an amicus brief as part of lawsuits challenging the executive orders.

3. We are organizing informational events as well as discussion forums as part of the upcoming TESOL International Convention in Seattle, 21-24 March. These events will address this unacceptable climate of hostility and celebrate Seattle as a sanctuary city. More information will be forthcoming in the myTESOL group mentioned above, and on the Convention website.

We encourage you to speak up whenever possible about these issues through public forums, blog posts, online comments, and opinion pieces. We also encourage you to become involved locally and support organizations that defend equal treatment under the law. It is important that we as professionals not be “silent friends” to those we serve and work with.

               Dudley Reynolds                                          Rosa Aronson
               TESOL President                                         Executive Director