By Rick Ritter

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Controversy surrounds a group of Baltimore City teachers as several are being forced to return home to their countries when their visas expire at the end of the month.

This comes after the group came to Baltimore years ago to fill high-need teaching areas.

Most of the teachers are from the Philippines, though some are from Jamaica, and all have called Baltimore home for the past 10-15 years.

They learned their fate just last week and will now be gone in a matter of days.

“I think it’s really criminal what they’re doing to these people,” Baltimore resident Amelia Andres said.

Emotions are running high across Baltimore. Twenty-five public school teachers, who called the inside of school doors home for more than a decade, are being ripped away from their livelihoods.

“It’s sad. It’s sad. It shouldn’t be happening to teachers who came here for our youth,” one parent said.

The group of teachers came to the city as part of a massive recruitment effort to fill high-need teaching positions.

Despite applying for an extension on their work visas, the district received notice from the federal administration that there won’t be a decision in time.

“They recently identified these cases for audit without explanation,” said Jeremy Grant-Skinner, chief human capital officer for Baltimore City Public Schools.

Teachers who’ve become leaders and helped shape student after student are now being forced to pack their bags.

“Their lives are here. Their homes are here. Their friends and family are here. Even more importantly, the children they teach are here,” Grant-Skinner added.

“They are science teachers, special education teachers, math teachers, they’re high need positions,” President of the Teachers Union Marietta English said.

The news leaves some parents outraged.

“These are teachers that our children have formed special bonds with,” one parent said.

Even long-time citizens of Baltimore are beside themselves.

“There’s no reason except perhaps, we don’t like people from the Philippines, which is just ridiculous,” Andres said.

It’s a heart-wrenching blow that has heightened anxiety.

More than 200 foreign teachers in Baltimore public schools are now left wondering what could come next.

“They’ve done no harm, except to be born in the wrong place,” Andres said.

The good news is, if and when these teachers return, WJZ has been told that an agreement has already been signed so that the teachers will be on extended leave and return to their same jobs, with the same exact pay.

For years, the district has recruited internationally to fill a number of high-need teaching areas.

The district is working with a Washington-based immigration law firm throughout the process.

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