As our country continues to struggle with historic teacher shortages, we ought to consider an untapped pool of aspiring teachers: Young immigrants who want to become educators.

Congress’s inability to pass any kind of immigration reform that would help undocumented immigrants become teachers makes easing the path of immigrants into educator roles a tough ask, especially as the 11-year-old DACA program is in peril of being eliminated for good by judicial decree.

Currently, immigrant educators may be granted work permits only if they qualify for DACA or Temporary Protected Status (TPS), which has been extended to people from 16 countries. State and local lawmakers and policymakers can and should be creative in expanding options.

The situation is urgent. According to New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, the state needs to hire 180,000 new teachers over the next decade to keep up with the demands of the workforce. Enrollment in New York State’s teacher education programs has declined by 53 percent since 2009.

Most disconcerting for our newest students: There is a significant shortage of bilingual teachers. In 2022-23, approximately 134,000 students who were enrolled in New York City’s public schools identified as English Language Learners, yet the United Federation of Teachers reported that the school system had fewer than 3,000 certified bilingual educators.

This shortage intersects with a political and social upheaval in the city. Since April 2022, New York has received more than 116,000 asylum seekers, including approximately 20,000 children who have now entered the public school system.

The majority of these students are from Latin America and the Caribbean and speak languages other than English.

Bilingual education is considered the best approach for immigrant students, according to Tatyana Kleyn, professor of Bilingual Education & TESOL at The City College of New York. Kleyn favors bilingual education because it allows students to continue learning in their home language while they also learn English.

Read the full article about education and immigration by Daniela Alulema at Hechinger Report.