As you undoubtedly by now know, earlier this week the U.S. Attorney General announced that the Federal “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” program (DACA) is being rescinded. This program was established by President Obama in 2012 as a “temporary stopgap measure” to provide opportunity, at the time, for Congress to act on the immigration reform bill, the “Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act” (Dream Act), that had passed the House in 2010 but had stalled in the Senate in 2011; it failed to receive enough cloture votes to overcome a filibuster. Under DACA, eligible participants apply for renewable two-year deferment from deportation.
This announcement was followed by a U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) memorandum that detailed the implementation of this rescission. Of note – the program is not immediately terminated; a six-month window has been established during which Congress presumably will consider legislative action for a permanent solution. If Congress does not act on it by that time, President Trump has announced that he will reconsider DACA. During this six-month “wind-down” period, DHS will consider any pending properly-filed DACA applications; DHS will not accept any new DACA applications; it will consider any pending properly filed renewal applications as well as any new renewal applications properly filed by October 5, 2017; and it WILL NOT terminate the grants of previously issued deferred action (DACA grantees).
At its December 2016 meeting, the YCCD Governing Board adopted a resolution that, among other statements, affirmed that it “the Yuba Community College District is committed to being and remaining a welcoming environment for all students, including international and undocumented students in accordance with law, regulation, and policy.” In January of this year the College Presidents and I issued a letter to all students that reiterated “The Yuba Community College District (YCCD) is committed to providing a welcoming environment for all students, including undocumented students …” again “in accordance with law, regulation and policy.” That letter also answered several frequently asked questions; I restate them below, updated with the implications of this recent DACA action:
- Question: Will all students continue to have access to higher education?
- January 2017 Answer: Yes. Federal regulations and State law allow all students, including children of undocumented immigrants, to pursue higher education in the United States.
September 2017 Answer: Yes for now but future eligibility depends on Congressional action. In the event the rescinded DACA program is not replaced by congressional action, nor halted or overturned by legal challenges or State legislative actions, access for undocumented students may ultimately be denied. Until then, Federal regulations and State law allow all students, including children of undocumented immigrants, to pursue higher education in the United States.
- Question: Will documentation status be provided to law enforcement agencies?
Answer: No. The Yuba Community College District is required by State and Federal law and District policy to protect the privacy of its students.
- Question: Will the District participate in creating a registry of undocumented students?
Answer: No. Federal and State law prohibit disclosing students’ education records to anyone except with a valid legal subpoena, warrant, or court order.
- Question: Will District Police enforce federal immigration laws?
Answer: No. The District Police are responsible for enforcing certain state and local laws and District policies; they have no jurisdiction over federal immigration laws.
The DACA rescission announcement changes nothing in our commitment to serving all students regardless of their race, ethnicity, national origin, religious beliefs, gender, sexual orientation, identity, medical condition, disability or immigration status … consistent with the laws and policies of this country and the State of California. Ours is a generous and compassionate nation and peoples; the Governing Board trustees, just as are all of us, are firmly committed to supporting all of our students and our employees in the pursuit of their individual liberties and educational goals. The Board’s Executive Committee has directed me to prepare a resolution, for the Governing Board to consider at its September 14 meeting, reiterating the District’s commitments and imploring Congress to act with all urgency to enact a solution. Our enduring concern is for ensuring that all of our students have a clear and certain future. State Chancellor Eloy Oakley has announced his intent to lead a State Chancellor’s Office delegation to Washington D.C. in early October “to lobby Congress for an immediate and permanent legislative solution that addresses the needs of our students.”
In the meantime, we will take immediate steps to act on behalf of impacted students to support them during this time of transition, including counseling and other support services such as directing students to legal resources that can educate them on their rights and legal protections as well as support their renewal applications. The State Chancellor’s Office, is working to identify funding sources for just this purpose. The California Chief Student Services Officers Association has organized a host of technical resources for colleges to enhance support for impacted students.
The State Chancellor’s Office has also issued guidance to assist us in supporting students; included is that there are two important issues to highlight: (1) the Department of Homeland Security will not terminate a DACA student’s status prior to the stated expiration date, March 5, 2018 and (2) any individual whose DACA status will expire between now and March 5, 2018 may apply for renewal but must do so before October 5, 2017. Nothing in this announcement or the DHS implementation memorandum impacts a student’s ability to attend our colleges, qualify for exemption from non-resident tuition fees (AB 540) or to apply for financial aid under the California Dream Act. AB 540 and the California Dream Act (AB 130 and AB 131) are state programs, separate and district from DACA and the federal enforcement of immigration laws.
In closing let me state the obvious. As individuals, we educators and our students, all have differing opinions on these particular laws; our individual responsibility is to make our opinions known to those who represent us in law-making. The Academy is a traditional ‘place,’ and arguably the best ‘place,’ in our society to foster civic dialog and the free and respectful exchange of ideas that often lead to policy-making; what we believe in common transcends those things on which we may disagree, thereby cultivating an ethos of civil, civic engagement. We should encourage such dialog as is appropriate to the curriculum and does not otherwise disrupt the education process; this is a tremendous opportunity, an imperative, for us to role-model civic virtue for our students and our communities. That said, as employees of the Yuba Community College District, it is our duty to follow the laws the State of California and of the United States in the conduct of our institutional programs and services. Those laws extend protections and rights to these students for whom was are also, as humane and empathetic educators, obliged by conscience to serve, secure and support.
Thank you all for your passion and dedication to all our students, their families and their communities including, especially at this time, those students who are attending our colleges as “Dreamers.”
Dr. Douglas B. Houston, Chancellor
Yuba Community College District
425 Plumas Blvd.
Yuba City, CA 95991
On Twitter @Yubadistrict
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