Committee plans immigrant student support

Caleb Danielson

The Immigrant Support Committee at San Diego City College held a meeting on Feb. 24 in the Math and Social Sciences building to discuss ways to better support immigrant students at the school. The committee also reported on challenges that some immigrant students face.

During the meeting, Yvonne Schmeltz, a learning community assistant at City College, expressed concern over DACA students who have been detained since President Donald Trump’s inauguration. “We’ve had at least two, maybe three students who have been detained already.”

Daniel Ramirez Medina of Seattle was the first known DACA recipient to be detained under the Trump administration. He was reportedly detained by ICE agents on Feb. 10.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program delays immigration enforcement action against qualifying immigrants who entered the country illegally as children, according the Citizenship and Immigration Services website. Those who have been convicted of a serious crime or are considered to be a threat to the country are not eligible for the program.

But expanding definitions under the Trump administration for priority immigration enforcement targets have made the future for DACA recipients uncertain.

A second DACA recipient, Josue Romero, was arrested on Feb. 15 for possession of a small amount of marijuana, and was subsequently detained by ICE officials in San Antonio. However, he was released the next day.  

Enrique Davalos, a Chicano studies professor at City College who also led the meeting, described some of the uncertainty surrounding immigration enforcement. “There is a grey area,” he said, for immigrants detained for minor crimes.

Davalos told the group that he regularly asks transit enforcement officers what they would do if they caught someone riding on the trolley without a ticket who told them that they did not have legal status.

Some of them say that they would just let the person go, said Davalos, but others tell him they would have no choice but to turn the person over to immigration officials.

Transit police usually patrol transit centers and walk through trolley cars checking for tickets and passes. But Davalos said that the officers have sometimes gone beyond their authority and asked people for their legal documentation.

The committee also talked about creating an immigrant support center on campus. Committee members described the plan to create a dedicated space for holding informative workshops and offering services to immigrant students.

“We would like to see a center that could be open at least full time (40 hours per week),” said Schmeltz. She said that she wanted there to be time for counselors to work in the center and release time for instructors to hold workshops.

Schmeltz suggested that the center have a full time staff including student workers, and also brought up the possibility of offering free legal assistance at the center.

Hector Martinez, an English professor at City College, said that legal and mental health services at the center would depend on what resources the center has access to. Martinez reported to the group that the school administration seemed open to the idea of opening an immigrant support center.

“The concerns tend to be operational,” Schmeltz said, referring to the costs of staffing the center and the logistics of providing space for it.

The committee says it will continue to meet and discuss ways to support immigrant students at City College, including the possibility of opening an immigrant support center.

The Immigrant Support Committee meets Fridays at noon and is open to anyone willing to actively support immigrant students. Those who are interested in joining can email Enrique Davalos at [email protected].