Shell Knob teacher faces deportation in summer
Coach to return to Spain at end of school year unless visa is granted
As health teacher and coach Carles Estorach walks down the halls of Shell Knob school, it's not uncommon for a kindergarten boy to pass him and shout, "Coach, don't go back to Spain!"
Estorach teaches health at Shell Knob and coaches basketball for boys and girls in fourth through eighth grades. His visa will end in May, and he will be forced to return to Spain, leaving behind the life he has built for himself, legally.
Six years ago, Estorach came to the United States as a student from Barcelona, Spain. He began playing professional basketball at age 16, but his parents wanted him to go to college.
Estorach said he did not want to leave Spain, but his father insisted he go to America, as it was the only place he could both play basketball and get an education.
He played basketball on scholarship for Missouri Southern State University, and the longer Estorach stayed in the United States, the more he began to like it.
"The more I stayed, the more I appreciated U.S. culture, and I became more understanding of the people and the American way," Estorach said.
Upon graduating with a degree in kinesiology and education, Estorach had an opportunity to apply for a visa that would allow him to work for one year.
"My first idea was to return home, but since I had the opportunity to apply for a work visa at a small cost, I turned in the paperwork, but didn't think I would get it," he said.
He did get the visa, and applied for a position at Shell Knob for which he was hired.
"It's my sixth year in the U.S.," Estorach said. "I have serious relationships, good friends and people I care for. I start to feel like this could be my home, or a place I could stay for a long time. I love the lake, the outdoors and the people here."
Estorach applied for a visa to allow him to continue working, but was unable to get it by the school's deadline of April 15.
According to Shelly Fransen, Shell Knob principal, the employer must sponsor the H1B visa that Estorach needs, and they can only do that if no other applicants qualify for the position. Fransen said she has 25 applicants for the position who do not require the visa.
Estorach said that under the current law, the U.S. is only issuing 65,000 visas for workers, and they usually go to technical jobs.
In addition, Fransen said the cost for the process could be $5,000 to $6,000 and not guarantee that Estorach could stay.
"He is a great teacher, and a great young man," Fransen said. "He has been a wonderful asset, but I can't gamble public money for him to stay."
Fransen said Estorach is very involved with the students, and helps with a lot of things. However, she had to follow the school rules of letting non-tenured staff know if they had a position by April 15. Since Estorach did not have the visa or the paperwork, they could not keep him on.
"He's a great guy and we hate to lose him, but we've tried what we can," Fransen said.
As of now, Estorach believes that he will be returning to Spain at the end of the school year.
Although he desires to stay, he said he sees the silver lining.
"I always choose to see the glass half full," Estorach said. "God gave me many talents. I'll get along fine and do my best to fit in wherever I'm put."
Estorach said his paperwork to teach in Spain will not be ready for a year, but he has a background in business and speaks five languages, so he believes he will be able to find a good position in Europe.
Estorach said it will be hard to be away from the friends he has made in America, and that he has enjoyed being a role model and positive influence on the students.
While the outlook for him to stay is not bright, Estorach does have one last hope.
Jon Buck, of Joplin, a friend to Estorach, started a petition for Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill to help Estorach obtain his work visa. The petition has over 1,300 signatures.
Estorach said he was unaware of the petition when it started, and now is overwhelmed by all the people supporting him.
"If you do your best to care about the people around you, when you're in trouble they'll be the ones that help you out," Estorach said.
Estorach said that he always tried to teach his students to be aware of the world around them. He said he hopes this process makes them aware of the current immigration laws in America, and they'll be willing to research before voting and making decisions.
"A lot of people think it doesn't matter until there's a person that they care about involved," Estorach said. "At that point, it's too late. They need to care about the laws before that."
The petition aiming to get Estorach a new visa may be found by searching his name at www.change.org.