Local, state colleges express concern toward DACA decision

Supporters of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) board a bus outside Representative Steve Knight's Santa Clarita offices on Tuesday, August 15, 2017, following a short rally and the delivery of materials to the office. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

Both leaders from Santa Clarita’s colleges and from California’s institutions of higher education are expressing their concern and frustration toward the Trump Administration’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

“Let me express my personal disappointment toward this action that will have such a profoundly negative impact on our nation, our state, our university, and so many of our colleagues, students and friends,” California State University Chancellor Timothy P. White said in a statement.

Implemented by a 2012 executive order signed by President Barrack Obama, DACA protected “Dreamers,” or those brought to the United States as children, from deportation while they attended school or obtained employment with a valid work permit.

However, Tuesday’s decision from the Trump Administration rescinded the program and gave Congress six months to find a solution for the 800,000 Dreamers nationwide who are facing an uncertain future when the program is set to expire March 5, 2018.

As the state with the most Dreamers—with more than 200,000 individuals protected by DACA—California education leaders are now voicing their disappointment in the administration’s decision as well as their support for students protected by DACA at their colleges and universities.

Local Colleges

In response to Tuesday’s news, California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) expressed its support for undocumented members of its community.

“We stand against any actions that infringe on undocumented communities right to live and create without fear of deportation,” CalArts said in a statement.

This January, the institute declared itself a Sanctuary Campus and said it is still committed to protecting students’ rights and privacy and nurturing emerging artists from all backgrounds.

“Diversity is the cornerstone of the arts and undocumented communities sustain and vivify our campus, our home in greater Los Angeles and our country,” the institute said.  “For each of us to grow as artists, to speak with and learn from one another, we must all be able to express ourselves freely.”

College of the Canyons (COC) Chancellor Dianne Van Hook shared a similar sentiment in an email distributed to all employees and students Tuesday.

“I am deeply saddened by this news, and can only begin to imagine the fear and anxiety that our DACA students at College of the Canyons are experiencing as they wonder what comes next for themselves and their families,” Van Hook said.

COC said it would continue providing benefits to students who were accepted into the DACA program and are now classified as California residents in the California Community College system.

“Even with the policy change announced today, DACA students will still retain their California residency status for enrollment purposes,” Van Hook said.

Students will only be required to re-confirm their residency status if they leave for a semester and return to COC, as all students are required to do when they re-apply for admission and re-enroll in credit courses.

The email to the COC community also reaffirmed to college’s November commitment to follow the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office guiding principles toward undocumented students.

Students at the college, and throughout the state, will still receive benefits from the California Dream Act, or Assembly Bill 540, which is unrelated to DACA and allows undocumented students to receive state financial aid for college.

“Under AB 540, students may still apply to attend College of the Canyons, qualify for an exemption of non-resident tuition fees, and apply for financial aid under the terms of the California Dream Act,” Van Hook said.

Statewide Leaders

Educational leaders throughout the state are also sharing their exasperation with the decision and their desire to advocate on behalf of DACA students.

“Ending DACA is a heartless and senseless decision that goes against American ideals and basic human decency,” California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley said in a statement.  “In California, we don’t put dreams – or Dreamers – on hold… We will do all within our power to assist students affected by this decision, and we will advocate tirelessly in Congress for a permanent resolution to this issue.”

Oakley added that the state’s community colleges are still committed to serving all students, regardless of their immigration status, who are pursuing an education.

University of California President Janet Napolitano said she was “deeply troubled” by the decision to end the DACA program and called upon Congress to pass bipartisan legislation to provide a permanent solution for those affected.

“This backward-thinking, far-reaching move threatens to separate families and derail the futures of some of this country’s brightest young minds, thousands of whom currently attend or have graduated from the University of California,” Napolitano said in a statement.

Napolitano also called the decision “misguided” and said the UC will continue to offer the same services to its undocumented students.

“I am immediately directing my advisory committee on undocumented students to determine how best to support and protect University of California students who rely on DACA over the next six months and beyond,” she said.

California State Chancellor Timothy P. White also reaffirmed the university’s support for its undocumented students.  He also voiced his support for CSU staff members who are employed by the university under DACA.

“To our wonderful CSU employees impacted by this revocation, I am troubled and dismayed that without any new federal action the CSU will be required to end the employment of some of its DACA recipients as early as March 6, 2018,” White said in a statement.  “I am troubled by this uncertainty and the potential loss of your contributions, creativity, energy and expertise, but I am optimistic that Congress will act to address the issue.”

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torklason called the decision “a mean-spirited, political attack on students who are working hard to succeed” and urged Congress to find a permanent path to citizenship for those impacted.

“Our country made an honest deal with these students—study hard, earn your degrees and you will get a fair chance to compete for college,” Torklason said in a statement.  “We should keep deals, not break them.  We should support dreams, not destroy them.”

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