President Donald Trump’s decision last week to eliminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program sparked fear and fury across the nation, but Hollister institutions stood united.
“The recent announcement heightened the deep sense of responsibility many of us at the college feel towards helping students achieve their educational goals despite the changes in the DACA program,” said Carina Cisneros, associate dean of EOPS and CalWORKS at Gavilan College. “Unfortunately, we are confronting great fear, frustration and a sense of hopelessness amongst students who were just starting their second week of classes in their fall semester.”
The DACA program, which President Obama enacted with an executive order in 2012, enables young undocumented immigrants brought into the United States as children to continue to live, work and learn in the country.
Over 200,000 young people in California are protected under the DACA program. There is an estimated 840,000 total recipients in the country.
“Over the next six months, we hope that Congress does what is needed to ensure that those who came here as children, and grew up here, are able to stay, contribute, and fully participate,” said Dr. Kathleen Rose, the college president in a statement to students and staff last week. “Gavilan College stands with these students, their friends and families, and remains committed to serving all students, regardless of immigration status. We have many resources and will work to ensure that students get whatever support we are able to provide.”
Cisneros said she’s received an increase in phone calls and emails from faculty and high school counselors who are confused about the DACA changes and how to help their students.
Prior to the Trump administration’s announcement that DACA would end in six months, Gavilan College formed a Dreamers task force at the start of 2017 to build “institutional” support for undocumented students on campus.
“Along with this effort our Board of Trustees, the Academic Senate and California School Employees Association passed resolutions in support of undocumented students,” Cisneros said. “We also held a five-hour training and launched a dedicated website to build capacity within our staff and faculty to be able to support the unique needs of our undocumented students.”
The workforce developed a Dreamers resource guide in both English and Spanish.
The school held a DACA renewal workshop Thursday at the Gilroy campus and has partnered with the Catholic Charities of Santa Clara to host the workshops once a month since July.
“It is important to see Gavilan step-up and speak out this way because it shows our connection and understanding to the issues that matter to our students and community,” Cisneros said. “We are a Hispanic serving institution who is truly connected to the issues impacting our community.”
In a statement to parents, students and staff, San Benito High School District Superintendent Shawn Tennenbaum emphasized the district’s policy of nondisclosure.
“The San Benito High School District has great concern and empathy for any student or family that may be affected by this policy change,” Tennenbaum said. “All children are welcome in our school, and this includes DACA students. The district will not discriminate against undocumented students and will not request information regarding immigration status or in any way exclude students based on actual or perceived citizenship or immigration status. The district will continue to follow federal and state law in regards to protecting confidential student records and other information indicating immigrant or citizenship status, and such information will not be released except as required by law.”
The high school, which enrolls about 3,000 students, will offer support and counseling to students affected by the decision to eliminate DACA, said Tennenbaum.
Congressman Jimmy Panetta held a roundtable discussion with 30 DACA recipients last Saturday at Hartnell College in Salinas.
An estimated 20,000 Dreamers live within California’s 20th congressional district.
“The Dreamers I met with told me about their families, their lives, and their hard work to be a part of and positively contribute to our community,” Panetta said in a statement after the meeting, which was not open to the media. “Their parents took great risks to bring them here to give them a better life. These young men and women are well aware of their obligation to give back to the country that gave them so much opportunity. In order to fulfill that responsibility, each Dreamer works hard to succeed in school, at work, for their families and our community. Now, they are threatened with potentially being forced to leave the only country that they are so proud to call home. Democrats and Republicans in Congress must work together to pass legislation that provides Dreamers throughout our community and country the opportunity to fulfill the American Dream.”