California Dreaming – San Diego Community College District advocacy workshops help students

Local colleges host week of DACA education and action events


Franceen Perera

San Diego City College Student Services Council sponsored a How to Support Undocumented Students Workshop on Oct. 19.

The California Community College Chancellor’s Office declared Oct. 16 – 20 the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Advocacy Week, in support of the over 200,000 young Californians impacted by the program.

The San Diego Community College District (SDCCD) and San Diego Continuing Education (SDCE) hosted a week of free workshops and information sessions, which were open to the public.

Events ranged from SDCE’s screening of the movie “Don’t Tell Anyone,” “No Le Digas a Nadie,” a young woman’s struggle as an undocumented youth, to information sessions, stress reduction workshops and panel discussions. In addition, City College’s Campus Mental Health and City College Peer Counselors were available to assist affected students, directing those with questions to available resources.

Mesa College hosted the Nuestras Voces (“Our Voices”) panel on Oct. 19, comprised of a discussion led by four faculty and staff members who shared their stories of being undocumented children. Jesus Gaytan, EOPS Special Populations counselor, spoke of how important he feels his job is now to help others, saying that “as an undocumented youth I felt fearful and hopeless, with no sense of direction.” Fortunately, the amnesty passed by President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s helped all of them resolve their status.

Franceen Perera
Undocumented Students Workshop on Oct. 19 at City College.

San Diego City College Student Services Council sponsored a “How to Support Undocumented Students” workshop on the same day, featuring speaker Cynthia Torres, the Undocumented Resource Area Coordinator at San Diego State University, in conjunction with the school’s Mental Health Counseling. Torres stated “it’s important for everyone to know their basic rights, no matter who is president.” She mentioned information is available at the National Immigration Law Online website. City College Dean Marciano Perez, Jr. also stated that the City College webpage includes important information for undocumented students, which is updated regularly.

The original intent of DACA was to create an American immigration policy that would allow some undocumented minors who were brought to the United States as young children to stay in the country. The rationale behind DACA is that these people came to the US at a very young age, so America is the only home they know.

Established in June 2012 by President Barack Obama’s administration, DACA allowed these students to have a renewable two-year period of deferred action against deportation, and eligibility for a work permit.

Commonly referred to as The Dream Act, by early 2017 DACA had approximately 800,000 “Dreamers” enrolled in the program nationwide. The program was created to specifically benefit undocumented college students the most.

The foundational principle of DACA is that while these young people are actively completing their higher education in the United States, they are also contributing to their schools and to their local neighborhoods and cities. These students therefore not only benefit from the protection DACA provides by allowing them to remain in the U.S., but America also benefits from their talents and capabilities if they get to stay.

Once President Donald Trump was elected, the future of the DACA program was in doubt. The Trump Administration rescinded the policy in September, effectively leaving these young people no protection from deportation. Many DACA students, their families, and their colleges are concerned.

In early October, the President said he will delay his deadline for ending DACA until Congress decides on a replacement program. California and several other states, businesses and the University of California have filed lawsuits that could slow the DACA removal process significantly in the court system.

Lyn Neault, SDCCD’s vice chancellor of student services said, “The San Diego Community College District is committed to providing every one of our students access to a quality education, and the SDCCD, its colleges, and Continuing Education will continue to provide information, including workshops and other academic support, for DACA students and the larger community to keep them informed about their options.”