GARLAND — The applause lasted a long time after one Garland teacher left the podium, clearly shaken by the emotional speech he had just made.
"I feel betrayed, grief-stricken, and panicked," he told members of the Garland school board. On behalf of a yet undetermined number of Garland Independent School District educators who could face deportation, he asked for the board's help.
"Defend us, and please send a letter saying we've done nothing wrong," he pleaded.
Emotion overcame him and with tears flowing, he quickly left the board room.
Colleagues Fransisco Marcano, an English as a second language teacher in the district, and Adolfo Torne, a GISD Spanish teacher, said they know exactly how he feels.
"We've all been crying," Marcano said. He came to America in 2001 from Venezuela and began teaching in Garland in 2007. Adolfo moved from Colombia and became a GISD teacher in 2005.
They and several other GISD teachers say they placed their faith in a program that would help them on a legal path to citizenship. As they worked, they also paid into the program.
"We invested what we had — and even what we didn't have — to pursue our dreams, just like any other dreamers who come here to pursue dreams," Marcano said. "Everything fell through for reasons that are beyond our control."
The Garland ISD's foreign teacher program is under investigation. And some of the teachers in the program are being told they need to leave the country.
"Now we find out we have to leave, with no foundation, no path to follow," Marcano said. "Basically, I'm speechless."
Torne agreed. "We love this country," he said of his family. "This is our country, too. So we want to stay here. And my passion is teaching, and when somebody tells me I need to cut what I really want to do, that's really sad."
The school board members listened to the public comment, but did not respond. Because the item was not an official agenda item, they couldn't discuss it.
It was standing room only at the board meeting, with several people there to support the teachers, and other members of the public there to complain about a proposed $300 million bond issue.
Neither Torne nor Marcano could say for sure what the future holds. They are very worried, they said — for them, their families, and their students.