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San Antonio students say goodbye to teacher facing immigration battle

KIPP San Antonio teacher deported after losing visa renewal

SAN ANTONIO – Angie Lee graduated from the University of the Incarnate Word and promptly got picked up by KIPP San Antonio’s dual-language elementary school, KIPP Esperanza.

She went to school and worked her first year teaching under a student visa.

“I invested so much in them and I love so much seeing them now, watching them grow, and my kids from this year as well,” she said. “It’s just I think that’s the main reason why I want to keep doing this work. I love watching them grow. I love to get to be a part of that.”

Lee’s visa is now up. She and school leaders at KIPP worked ferociously over the summer to apply for a new one under the H1-B work visa. Time was against her. Ultimately, if KIPP is successful in applying for what’s known as cap exempt -- which does not fall under the federal 65,000-person lottery -- it could pave the way for future teachers to work at KIPP and not worry about deportation.

“If KIPP got cap exempt status, they would be able to recruit teachers from all around the world without them having to apply to that lottery of just 65,000,” Lee said.

The news is devastating for Lee, who felt she did things the right way. She knows there are other ways to stay in the United States, but she considers that to be unethical.

“Sometimes you get a visa. Sometimes you don’t. And if you get a visa, it’s like, wow you’re really lucky. But it’s so hard,” she said. “There’s other ways that could be easier but they go against my morality. Getting married is so easy.”

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Lee, from Monterrey, Mexico, will find opportunities in her home country. She knows there are needs in communities there, too.

“I love my country. I love its colors and its people and its culture. But the U.S. also offers me a lot of opportunities and a lot of space to grow, and a lot of freedom and safety as well.”

In January, KIPP will begin the application process again on behalf of Lee, and a community of parents desperately want her back. She is excited because if KIPP obtains a cap exempt status, KIPP will be able to freely fulfill its dual-language mission.

“If we do get a cap exempt status at some point, it’ll open so many doors for people like me that want to come teach here, want to make an impact, but they weren’t born here,” she said.

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U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-San Antonio) said Lee is the type of person that communities like KIPP need. “She is helping children achieve their full God-given potential,” he said in a statement. “Clearly, our immigration system is broken. We need to make the changes needed to keep Angie and others in San Antonio.”

Federal immigration policy has been the most strict under President Obama, who has deported more people than other presidents before him. It's unknown how President-elect Donald Trump's policy on immigration will go, but he has said he wants to eliminate the H1-B work visa. 

Trump said that he has employed people at his businesses using the H1-B visa.