Leaders of California State University and California Community Colleges, the largest public university systems in the nation, joined in denouncing the Trump administration's decision Tuesday to end protections for thousands of young immigrants.
“Ending DACA is a heartless and senseless decision that goes against American ideals and basic human decency," said Eloy Ortiz Oakley, chancellor of the state community college system, which educates 2.1 million students on 114 campuses. About 61,000 of the system's students in 2015 received in-state tuition under AB 540, the state's closest proxy for estimating the number of students without legal status.
"Those who are affected by this decision were brought to this country as children and are pursuing an education and making contributions to their communities," Oakley said in a statement. "Some have served in the armed forces defending this country. In California, we don’t put dreams – or Dreamers – on hold."
At Thomas Jefferson High School in South L.A., social studies teacher David Wiltz told his class, which includes English learners and special education students, that he would do whatever was in his power to protect them.
At 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, several students gathered at the UCLA Labor Center to watch a livestream of the Trump administration's announcement on whether it would extend protections for nearly 800,000 young immigrants like them.
When U.S. Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions announced the government would rescind the Obama-era policy known as DACA that has deferred deportation proceedings and let these immigrants study and work, the room went dead silent.
"There was disbelief at the way Jeff Sessions was framing it – that we take jobs, that we're criminals," said 22-year-old Yael, who is on track to graduate from UCLA this month in psychology and labor and workplace studies.
The University of California's chief immigration legal expert urged students who have received government reprieves from deportation to stay calm in the face of President Trump's announcement Tuesday that he plans to phase out DACA protections.
Maria Blanco, who heads the UC Immigrant Legal Services Center, said a major lobbying campaign will try to push Congress to extend the protections to nearly 800,000 young immigrants who were brought to the country illegally or fell out of legal status. Under the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, deportation proceedings have been suspended against young immigrants brought to the country before age 16 who stayed in school and out of trouble. The young people also have been allowed to obtain work permits.
"We have a very good shot at legislation in Congress and making that happen right away," Blanco said. "Students shouldn't do anything like quit school or their jobs.
As confusion swirls about the future for DACA beneficiaries, local school districts and colleges are reiterating their support for DACA students. Here are websites and links for Dreamers looking for legal resources:
University of California President Janet Napolitano blasted President Trump's decision to end a program that deferred deportation for 800,000 young immigrants and urged Congress to pass bipartisan legislation to protect them.
"This backward-thinking, far-reaching move threatens to separate families and derail the futures of some of this country’s brightest young minds, thousands of whom currently attend or have graduated from the University of California," she said in a statement Tuesday.
Napolitano, who crafted the original Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy when she was U.S. Homeland Security secretary in the Obama administration, said the 10-campus UC system would continue to offer services for students who are in the country illegally. About 4,000 such students — also known as Dreamers — attend UC schools, with the largest number at UCLA and UC Irvine.
Leaders of the Los Angeles Unified School District doubled down on their support for immigrant students after the Trump administration announced that it would phase out DACA.
“I am concerned by this decision and its long-term impacts on the students, families and employees of L.A. Unified,” Supt. Michelle King said in a statement. “These young immigrants have made valuable contributions to the community and the nation they consider their home, and they have earned the right to a permanent place in its history.”
L.A. Unified previously passed a resolution saying schools would make it harder for immigration officials to enter campuses. The district also launched a hotline for families struggling with immigration issues under Trump and started the school year with an inclusion campaign called “We Are One.”
California’s top education official denounced Trump decision to phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
“Our country made an honest deal with these students — study hard, earn your degree and you will get a fair chance to compete for college,” state Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said in a statement. “We should keep deals, not break them.”
Torlakson said the students covered by DACA enhance California overall. “Their hard work, energy, dedication and diverse backgrounds help them contribute to our economy,” he said. About 217,000 children in California are Dreamers, according to the California Department of Education.