DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, is a program that has helped thousands of undocumented students attend college nationwide.
Anyone who is going through the higher education system or has put a child through the system can tell you, it is hard, it is confusing, and most of all, it is expensive. Most students, including myself, benefit from aid such as the Middle-Class Scholarship or Pell Grants, but undocumented students typically do not have access. In most instances, they are forced to pay out of state tuition even if they live within the state of the higher education institution they are pursuing.
However, with DACA, undocumented students can receive work authorization and FAFSA aid if they meet the requirements. Rest assured, not just anyone can receive DACA authorization.
Some of the main elements that must be met by the undocumented student include: having “continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007, up to the present time,” “are currently in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school … or are an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or American Armed Forces of the United States,” and “have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.” These are only a few of the many requirements.
These students are not criminals. They are not just coming across the border to attend our schools. CSU Bakersfield has been able to accept every student that meets admissions standards, so they are not taking the place of any other deserving students.
As student government president of Bakersfield College (2014-15), student trustee of the Kern Community College District (2014-15), and president of the Associated Students Inc. of CSU Bakersfield (2016-17), I have had the opportunity to learn about DACA in depth. I had the immense honor of representing these students on a local, state and federal level.
Both Bakersfield College and CSUB have a significant number of DACA recipients. These students are actively working towards improving not their own lives, but also the lives of the communities they live and work in.
We all know the sentimental arguments for DACA but what about the actual facts? Take CSUB: Approximately 60 percent of graduates stay within Kern County. That means, after graduation, those students continue to live and work right here in Kern County. They pay taxes and contribute every single day, just like every other resident of our great county.
Studies have shown that those who pursue higher education commit fewer crimes, participate more in the community, and earn more, which means they pay more in taxes, than those who do not pursue higher education.
If DACA were revoked, not only would thousands of students nationwide and hundreds in our local community be adversely affected, but the entire Central Valley would be hurt. California as a whole would lose approximately $11.3 billion in gross domestic product without DACA and much of this loss would come from our valley’s agriculture sector.
This issue should not be taken lightly. It doesn’t appear as though Congress will be taking up the broader issue of immigration anytime soon, therefore, these students will continue to remain here in Kern. We should continue to educate these students so that they can continue to give back to our community.
DACA must be kept in place until Congress can come forward and establish a legislative solution to this issue. Let’s get away from partisan politics and partisan talking points and fight for the future our community and its overall success by standing up for all of our students.
I am a young Republican and I am proud to stand beside our community’s DACA students.
Alex N. Dominguez, a Kern County native, is an alumnus of Bakersfield College and CSUB who is currently studying law at the University of Mississippi.