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Cal State trustees call for preserving legal protections for 'Dreamers'

California State University’s board of trustees unanimously passed a resolution Wednesday encouraging leaders of the nation’s largest public university system and each of its 23 campuses to support and advocate for the continued protection of their 8,300 “Dreamer” students and hundreds more faculty and staff members.

Chancellor Timothy P. White urged the trustees to take a public stand at their meeting in Long Beach.

“This resolution … is a rare occurrence, but these are rare and unique circumstances,” he told them. “It’s something that we don’t normally do. But because of its importance, we decided to stand up.”

Educational leaders nationwide have been pushing back since President Trump’s decision to phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which has offered protection from deportation and the ability to work to young people who came into the country illegally as children, often called Dreamers.

In September, University of California President Janet Napolitano sued the Trump administration — the first legal effort by a university to block the decision. Last month, in a push organized by the American Council on Education, more than 800 college and university presidents and chancellors signed a letter urging Congress to pass legislation as soon as possible to preserve protections for the roughly 700,000 young immigrants in the country now facing possible deportation.

“If we are unable to protect these Dreamers, we will be shutting the door to an entire generation of individuals who seek to contribute their best to America,” they wrote.

At Cal State, White said, “most are the first in their family to attend college, and they work hard to further their educations. Many serve as campus leaders and have ambitious goals centered on improving the lives of others across their communities.”

Cal State student trustee Jorge Reyes Salinas, a DACA recipient who pushed for Wednesday’s resolution, described his experiences to trustees and administrators. “I did not find out or even think about my immigration status until sophomore year of high school, as I applied for ... courses offered at a community college,” he said. “Now the fear of going about your day, that constant worry of being detained or deported, is real and tangible in the life of every Dreamer.”

Sixteen of Cal State’s campuses have established Dream Centers to provide students mental health services, academic support, financial assistance and legal services. An employee assistance program offers the same sort of help to faculty and staff. Each campus has designated at least one point person to help students without legal status. (A list of services, campus by campus, can be viewed here.)

Like other higher learning institutions, Cal State has also made it clear that, “unless otherwise required by law, we will not enter into agreements with law enforcement agencies for the purpose of enforcing federal immigration laws,” as White wrote in a February memorandum.

Read more: Cal State will not help deport undocumented students under Trump, chancellor says »

White said Wednesday that the trustees’ resolution adds “more muscle to the conversation.”

His priority now, he said, is to get as many members of the Cal State community to make the case for DACA, particularly in districts represented by Republican lawmakers.

“We’re going to keep our foot on the pedal and press as hard as we can, along with many others,” he said. “There are tens of thousands of voices now. We are working hard to make Congress respond.”

rosanna.xia@latimes.com

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