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Education leaders vow to continue supporting undocumented students after DACA repeal

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Hong Mei Pang, a former DACA recipient and current immigration program manager for Chinese for Affirmative Action, speaks during a news conference at San Francisco City Hall on Tuesday, September 5, 2017 in response to President Donald Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

Education leaders throughout San Francisco and California expressed unwavering support for undocumented students and employees in the education system following President Donald Trump’s decision to repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

In the days leading up to Trump’s decision Tuesday to phase out DACA in six months unless Congress provides a legislative solution, educational institutions have had to confront tough questions about the impact the repeal will have on undocumented students and educators.

DACA was established by former President Barack Obama in 2012 and has since granted some 790,000 immigrants nationwide who meet certain conditions with deportation relief, access to social security numbers, work permits and education, according to data released by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

California is the state with the highest DACA initial recipients, counting some 223,000.
“In California, we don’t put dreams — or Dreamers — on hold,” California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley declared in a statement Tuesday, stating continued support for undocumented students attending the state’s 114 community colleges.

“The California Community Colleges remain committed to serving all students, regardless of immigration status and to providing safe and welcoming environments in which to learn,” said Oakley, adding that community college leaders would “advocate tirelessly in Congress for a permanent solution to this issue.”

Students attending any of the 11 City College of San Francisco campuses would will not be affected in regards to tuition or enrollment, CCSF Trustee Tom Temprano said.

Rather, CCSF administrators will strategize around providing additional resources to undocumented students, through “policy changes” or bolstering resources at VIDA, an on-campus resource center specifically serving undocumented students.

“Our students will perhaps need additional mental health resources and counseling. It’s a traumatic experience that this president is putting on young people in this country,” Temprano said.

California State University Chancellor Timothy White, who oversees 23 campuses throughout the state, wrote in a statement that DACA has “enabled thousands of academically qualified Californians to pursue their dreams at California State University campuses.”

An estimated 700 to 750 students attending the San Francisco State University at 1900 Holloway Ave. are undocumented, according to SFSU spokesperson Mary Kenny.

Enrollment, tuition and financial aid are not dependent on DACA status and will not be impacted for current students with the program’s repeal, White said. The same holds true for state funding under the California Dream Act, which increases access to financial aid for undocumented students, and will not change.

CSU leaders promised to take steps to assist the system’s students with the completion of their “educational pursuits,” but White painted a bleaker picture for CSU employees who are DACA recipients and will be unemployable by the school after March 5, 2018, should Congress fail to take action.

“While our hope is that members of Congress will pass legislation restoring the protections afforded by DACA, if they fail to act timely, regretfully, there are no options to allow CSU to continue to employ you,” White wrote. It’s unclear how many DACA recipients are currently employed at SFSU or throughout the CSU system.

Supervisor Hillary Ronen oversees the Mission District, which has traditionally been home to a large Latino immigrant population. At an emergency news conference held at City Hall on Tuesday, Ronen assured community members that immigrants in California will continue to have access to driver’s licenses and higher education, even with the repeal.

Still, she called the decision to “deny youth and adults who arrived in this country as children the ability to work” and to put “so many thousands of people” at increased risk of deportation, “unconscionably cruel and irrational.”

Meanwhile, San Francisco supervisors on Tuesday introduced resolution stating support for the DACA program. Among other things, the resolution calls on city agencies to provide mental health services to residents affected by the DACA repeal, and vows to hold accountable municipal agencies that violate The City’s Sanctuary City.

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