The Fight For DACA
Students rally in defense of legislation protecting DREAMers
By Lilly Nguyen Culture Editor
The Trump administration announced that it will be rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program on Tuesday, Sep. 5, effectively crushing the livelihoods of nearly 800,000 undocumented immigrants.
“They feel like their life is in jeopardy and in the hands of people who don’t know how to make decisions or make something happen for them.”
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, otherwise known as DACA, was an immigration policy instated by the Obama administration in 2012, which promised qualifying applicants a renewable, two-year period of deferred action from deportation as well as eligibility for a work permit. It provides applicants with a social security number and access to education, banking and housing. Children who were brought to the United States before the age of 16 are considered eligible for DACA, as the program hinges on the notion that children who were brought to the U.S. without their consent and/or knowledge should not be punished for the actions of their parents.
Though the Obama administration saw more deportations than any other sitting president, research suggests that the five years since 2012 introduced opportunities previously thought to be inaccessible.
According to a 2017 survey by the Center for American Progress, 97 percent of DACA recipients are employed or enrolled in school. 91 percent of participants reported that they are currently employed, 93 percent of whom are above the age of 25.
45 percent of respondents in the same survey are enrolled in some form of schooling. Of these students, 72 percent are pursuing a bachelor’s degree or higher. Thirty-six percent of participants above the age of 25 reported having a bachelor’s degree or higher. The Center for American Progress reports that 94 percent of the participants currently in school were able to pursue educational opportunities they previously could not due to DACA.
It was this widely-shared experience at LBSU that allowed for the construction and opening of the Dreamers Success Center in 2015. It now serves as a resource center for AB-540 students, who are exempt from paying nonresident tuition at California public universities per California Education Code AB 540, and Dreamers, a term coined to describe DACA recipients as a homage to the Dream Act first introduced to Congress in 2001. The policy allowed undocumented immigrants to apply first for conditional residency and later for permanent residency.
The Dreamers Success Center provides a safe environment for DREAMers and beneficiaries of the California DREAM Act, a 2011 bill signed by Gov. Jerry Brown that permits students who meet residency for in-state tuition and certain GPA requirements to receive state financial aid as well as academic, financial and social advice from counselors who are available by appointment.
However, it appears that in the wake of the announcement on Tuesday, both students and staff find themselves at a loss.
22 West Magazine reached out to the Dreamers Success Center to ask what the Trump administration’s ultimatum means for the center and the students involved, but Dreamers Success Center Director Rafael Topete was unable to comment due to an overwhelming number of anxious and afraid students who have arrived at the center looking for advice on what to do in the coming months.
Though the Trump administration is continuing to receive renewal requests until Oct. 5, ASI Commissioner for AB-540 and Undocumented Students Gabriela Hernandez Uribe said that it is the fear of the unknown that is the most unsettling for students.
“They feel like their life is in jeopardy and in the hands of people who don’t know how to make decisions or make something happen for them,” said Uribe. “Some even think ‘How do I focus on my studies when I don’t know what my life is going to be like? Can I drive?’ If you don’t have [documentation], your life is in jeopardy and if you’re deported, there’s a chance you have to go back to a life you don’t know with no preparation at all.”
“Everyone I know in DACA is hardworking,” she continued. “They are working extra hard to make sure they sustain themselves. But it doesn’t matter what they do, the ‘undocumented’ label always sticks with them. Every aspect of their life is affected by the this label.”
Uribe added that ASI organized a support group with Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) for students to express their concerns and fears on Wednesday. Due to its successful turnout and high demand, ASI plans to continue to host these safe spaces in the future.
“The change in national policy is disheartening. When signing up for DACA our students and colleagues believed the information they provided to the federal government would afford them an opportunity to work and learn free from fear of deportation.”
LBSU President Jane Close Conoley issued a statement to assuage the fears of students by confirming that the administration’s decision will not affect AB-540 students in regards to the financial support promised to them by the state. Conoley added that LBSU campus police will not work with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, better known as ICE, to detain students or faculty.
“The change in national policy is disheartening. When signing up for DACA our students and colleagues believed the information they provided to the federal government would afford them an opportunity to work and learn free from fear of deportation,” said Conoley in a campus-wide email.
CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White also issued a statement, conceding that some of the faculty employed under DACA will have to leave the CSU staff if Congress fails to produce a working substitute by the deadline as there is “…no option to allow CSU to continue to employ [DACA recipients].” White is hopeful, however, that legislation will be passed to restore the protections of the program before that date comes.
White encouraged both CSU faculty and students to talk to their congressmen for a long-term solution to protect current and future DACA beneficiaries.
In addition to calling representatives and senators, defenders of DACA have taken to the streets on campus, off campus and online in a rallying call for Congress to act.
A campus protest was held the day of the administration’s announcement at 2 p.m. in front of the Prospector Pete statue adjacent to Liberal Arts 5. Students led the march down to lower campus, carrying signs emblazoned with “Defend DACA” and other phrases in support of Dreamers. One student carried a sign that said, “Still undocumented, still unafraid — with or without DACA.” Protesters urged passing students and faculty to deny complacency and join them in arms to protect the rights of undocumented immigrants at the risk that should Congress fail.
Several protests in defense of DACA are expected to emerge in both Los Angeles and Long Beach over the course of the weekend and more are likely to occur all over the U.S. in the coming days.
If Congress does not move to pass legislation to preserve the protections that DACA provided undocumented immigrants, it is possible that the earliest deportations will be seen in March.
Claudia Farfan, a LBSU alumna and acting immigration attorney, urged beneficiaries to contact a lawyer as soon as possible.
“Even though DACA is sunsetting, that does not mean that you cannot have another path,” said Farfan, in a Facebook Live video released on Wednesday night.
Farfan went on to explain that recipients could potentially receive legal residency status or a green card via a U-visa, a visa granted to victims of crimes in which they were physically or psychologically harmed and cooperated with police, or by family petitions. Beneficiaries could also potentially gain a visa through work if they currently hold a collegiate degree and have experience in their field. However, Farfan adds that these are possibilities that need to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis and that recipients need to do this sooner rather than later so that attorneys can figure out what to do for them.
Nonprofit organizations like the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles and the National Immigration Law Center also offer legal assistance to recipients who cannot submit renewal requests before the deadline.
Uribe calls upon non-Dreamers to lend their voices to undocumented youth in the U.S. who cannot use their own.
“Be an ally, speak up, be on the frontline. This is a sensitive thing and we risk a lot if we speak sometimes, especially now. Talk to your representatives. Be an advocate and get involved.”
Students are encouraged to go to the Dreamers Success Center, located in University Student Union Room 309, if they have any questions. Appointments can be made through the center’s page on LBSU’s website.