En junio, la administración Obama implantó el programa Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (conocido como DACA, por sus siglas en inglés), el cual les da a ciertos menores indocumentados la oportunidad de obtener protección contra la deportación y un permiso de dos años para trabajar en Estados Unidos. Ahora, la organización JUNTOS (que respalda y alienta a los inmigrantes en Filadelfia) está ayudando a los estudiantes a obtener estatus de Deferred Action (acción diferida).
In June the Obama administration implemented the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, giving certain undocumented youth a chance to receive deportation protection and a two-year U.S. work permit. Now, JUNTOS, a community organization that supports and encourages immigrants in Philadelphia, is helping students to obtain Deferred Action status.
Asked what “portfolio management” means to him, Jerry Jordan’s answer was swift and certain:
“Big business. Outsourcing. It’s literally getting rid of public service,” said the president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.
But when asked about the PFT’s strategy for slowing a trend that has seen thousands of teaching jobs shifted to non-union charter schools, Jordan’s answer was more general: “We have to work more closely with the parents and the people in the community in order to make sure our schools are funded adequately. We can’t survive another billion-dollar cut.”
Philadelphia is facing a summer jobs crisis. Due to diminishing federal funds and the recession, estimates suggest that only 5,400 young people will work this summer through WorkReady Philadelphia, the city's youth workforce development system. Local employers, area foundations, and city and state governments are stepping up. But there's still a way to go to reach the target of 7,500 jobs.
Community College of Philadelphia student
“You are always going to be at an advantage if you have a college degree, especially now. It is tough, and I understand that the government needs to make it more affordable, but that should not be the reason you don’t go. What kind of job do you think someone is going to give you without an education?”
Rey Santiago, a former member of the safety and security team at ASPIRA Olney Charter High School, said that he was fired from the school last winter for something he did 23 years ago.
Now he and fellow members of Men in Motion in the Community (MIMIC), a community-based organization that mentors young African American and Latino males, are rallying against the state law that they say is unfairly putting school employees and outside contractors like themselves who have criminal records out of work.
Like almost 14 million other Americans, Monica Reyes is looking for work.
"Macy's, Walmart, Kmart, Sears, Friday's, Outback," said Reyes, ticking off her list of recent unsuccessful job applications.
A sluggish economy has made finding work difficult for people from all walks of life. Nationally, the unemployment rate is still above 8 percent. Four people compete for every job.
Few of them will have a tougher time finding work than Reyes.
With the United States struggling after a "Great Recession," young adults without a high school diploma are in a world of hurt.
"That's especially true in Philadelphia, where you've seen the dropout labor market just collapse over the last 30 years," said Paul Harrington, the director of Drexel University's Center for Labor Markets and Policy.
Citywide, 65 percent of 20-24-year-old dropouts – almost 7,700 young adults – are neither working nor in school.
From her fifth-floor office window at the headquarters of Congreso, Cynthia Figueroa can look down at Kensington's past and see what she hopes is its future.
A block to the east, at American and Cambria Streets, an abandoned textile factory has been razed, and her Kensington-based human service organization is building an education center and charter school campus in its place.
The center will also house a branch of Harcum College, where local residents will study leadership and management, juvenile justice, human resources, and child care. It's a far cry from the factory jobs once available to anyone with a high school diploma – or perhaps with just a strong back.
Figueroa, president and CEO of Congreso, is confident that with adequate resources, Kensington's youth can be trained for the 21st century job market.
Graduation rates among Black and Latino males are only 53 and 43 percent respectively, not much improved from when the District's African American and Latino Male Dropout Taskforce looked at the problem two years ago.
Bill McKinney, former chair of the taskforce and board chair of Men in Motion in the Community (MIMIC), an organization that mentors Black and Latino boys, says dealing with this crisis means having to acknowledge the challenges of their environment, personal struggles, and school-based problems.