Since the announcement of the rescinding of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program by President Donald J. Trump Sept. 5th, there have been questions of what that means for the 800,000 DACA recipients. DACA is the program that was enacted in 2012 by the Obama administration according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration website.
At California Lutheran University, there are about 50 students who receive DACA status said Matthew Ward, vice president of enrollment management and marketing. Ward also said that this year was the largest group of DACA students to enter the university.
“We had 17 students enter this fall across a variety of programs both the freshman traditional undergraduate right out of high school and students transferring from community colleges and four year institutions into Cal Lutheran,” Ward said.
Cal Lutheran students who are part of the DACA program are offered support that ranges from meetings of solidarity to providing resources for legal council.
“What we’re trying to do is be very dynamic so whatever the students want and need we’re trying to make it happen so we’re also having know your rights meetings where different lawyers or attorneys are coming to campus and telling students what their rights are,” said Admission Counseler Diana Hernandez.
Hernandez and Ward work together to keep in contact with DREAMers, informing them of resources that are available including assistance going through the DACA renewal process.
“We’ve been also doing some internal fundraising to help our students pay the 495 dollars because that’s not pocket change to get the renewal done,” Ward said.
DACA status must be renewed every two years for recipients to keep their work status. With the rescinding of the program, Oct. 5th 2017 is the last day that those up for renewal in the window of Sept. 5, 2017 to March 5, 2018 can re-apply according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration website.
On Sept. 6th, Cal Lutheran President Chris Kimball sent an email statement to the entire university student body and staff re-affirming Cal Lutheran’s support of the DACA program and its recipients. The email also asked the Cal Lutheran community to call upon Congress to act on legislation for the continuation of DACA.
“I asked people to contact their legislators, normally I would not do that. And the university is not taking political sides but in this case where we’ve got a risk that our actual students-people you’re in class with could be forced out of the country, I mean I think we’ve got to do something,” Kimball said.
Kimball said that as a private institution Cal Lutheran has not adopted the title of “sanctuary university” but that the university has the same practices of the schools and cities with that designation.
“We’re not inviting police on to check on immigration status because of FERPA and because we’re private we don’t release information from the registrar about students’ immigration status. I want people to know that as much as they can within the environment of the university they’re our students and we protect them fully,” Kimball said.
Privacy for those with DACA status was a sentiment echoed by Hernandez who said that the university held very true to not releasing information about DREAMers. Since the DACA program requires recipients to submit their personal information, there is fear that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents could try to use the information to find students.
“There’s been a lot of counseling on where students can go should there be a situation where ICE agents came to campus you know, trying to find one of our students and kind of where they would have a reasonable expectation of privacy,” Ward said.
Hernandez said that she and Professor Cynthia Duarte will be hosting a DREAMer ally training session in November. Those who complete the training will receive an ally symbol that depicts a butterfly designed by artist Favianna Rodriguez with the words “DREAMers welcome” underneath.
“I think overall butterflies are signs for change and immigration,” Hernandez said. “It’s unofficially a DREAMER symbol, I think DREAMers will recognize the butterfly as a safe space.”
Kimball said that while he remained optimistic about the passage of DACA legislation he acknowledged that living in a majority democrat state meant that there were less votes to influence compared to republican states. Congresswoman Julia Brownley of the 26th District of California was one of the votes in favor of passing DACA into law that Kimball was not concerned about.
“I will keep working in Washington to pass a legislative solution that protects DREAMers, ensures they can continue contributing to our economy and our society, and gives them an opportunity to achieve the American Dream,” Brownley said in an email interview.
Brownley has served as the congressional representative for the 26th district, which encompasses much of Ventura and part of Los Angeles county since 2012. During her time as a representative she said she has seen the impact that the nearly 7,000 DACA recipients in the district have made.
“Over the course of my time as Ventura County’s representative in Congress, I have met with these individuals who are making our county and our country stronger,” Brownley said in an email interview. “They have become an important part of our communities – whether as a student, a teacher, a health professional, an entrepreneur, or a service-member these DREAMers have made a lasting, positive impact.”
While Congress decides on DACA, through the leadership of Kimball and the guidance of Hernandez and Ward the Cal Lutheran DREAMers will continue their higher education experience.
“They are still our students-pass your classes, sign up for spring semester. Your financial aid is still going to be there, your campus job is still going to be there,” Kimball said. “We’ll do everything under the law to protect them but above all that they are Cal Lu students and they’re going to remain Cal Lu students.”