It can be easy to get lost in the rhetoric, and caught up in the passions that often go hand in hand when discussing our nation’s immigration policies. But when it comes to the president’s decision to terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program effective in March and the failure of Congress to act to preserve it, the discussion needs to focus on people.
DACA students are some of our brightest students and hardest workers who were brought here when they were children, many of them as infants and toddlers and had no control over their destiny.
That is why recently, in response to the Trump administration’s decision to rescind the DACA program, the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office recently conducted a DACA Advocacy Week. With panel discussions, workshops, strategy sessions and outreach to elected leaders we built support statewide for an immediate and permanent resolution for these students. DACA Advocacy Week encouraged community awareness of the more than 200,000 young people in California impacted by the decision to rescind the program. People who are studying to become doctors and nurses who one day may save your life. People who are serving in our armed forces to protect our freedoms.
Let’s be clear. To qualify for DACA, applicants must pass a rigorous screening, including the requirement to have arrived in the United States before reaching the age of 16, resided here continuously since 2012, be enrolled in or completed high school, not been convicted of a crime, and not present a threat to national security or public safety. The Cato Institute, a Libertarian think tank, found the average DACA recipient is 22 years old and employed, still in school and nearly 1 in 5 pursuing an advanced degree. Cato concluded that deporting DACA recipients nationwide would cost the federal government $60 billion, along with $280 billion in losses to the U.S. economy over 10 years.
The California Community Colleges’ Board of Governors, along with the University of California and the California State University systems, will continue to stand with DACA participants, fight alongside them to keep the program alive, provide them with affordable and accessible educational opportunities and support all current and future students who rely on its protections. Throughout this year, the California Community Colleges system has worked to reassure students that our campuses will remain safe, welcoming places for students of all backgrounds to learn. We have been joined by a growing number of our colleges across California belonging to a ballooning and resolute coalition of business leaders, clergy, public office holders and other civic leaders in supporting the vulnerable.
The California Community Colleges has also increased efforts to raise awareness of financial assistance available to DACA students. Under the California Dream Act, DACA students are still eligible for state-based aid. We encourage them to apply for financial aid with assurance that their personal financial aid information will not be shared with any federal agencies or authorities. The California Community Colleges is committed to protecting the personal information of our DREAMer students to the fullest extent of the law.
We urge Congress to immediately and permanently preserve the DACA program and further work toward comprehensive immigration reform so that all our students can realize their full potential and continue to make meaningful contributions to their communities, the state of California, and our economy. And we ask that you, no matter your political persuasion, contact your representatives and support our efforts at protecting some of our best and brightest immigrants who have been living here for years and who know of no other home than our great state and our great country.