Credit: Courtesy of University of California
University of California President Janet Napolitano.

The heads of California’s three systems of higher education have sent an unusual joint letter to President-elect Donald Trump, asking that he retain the temporary protection from deportation that the Obama administration has given to about 750,000 young, undocumented immigrants nationwide.

Those so-called Dreamers “should be able to pursue their dream of higher education without fear of being arrested, deported or rounded up for just trying to learn,” said the joint letter released publicly Tuesday by University of California president Janet Napolitano, California State University chancellor Timothy White and California Community Colleges chancellor-designate Eloy Ortiz Oakley.

Together, their three systems are thought to enroll an estimated 74,000 undocumented students. Many of them have received the protection under the 2012 executive order known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which covers  some immigrants brought to this country as babies and youngsters up to age 16. During the election campaign, Trump said he would revoke DACA, although he has not addressed the issue more recently. He can make the change without Congressional approval.

The issue has special resonance for Napolitano, who was U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security at the time DACA was issued; she was deeply involved in its development.

“These sons and daughters of undocumented immigrants are as American as any other child across the nation, in all but in the letter of the law. Some never even spoke the language of their native land. They do not represent a public safety threat,” said the letter from UC, CSU and community college leaders.

Among other things, DACA provides recipients permits to work legally in the country, a significant advantage for college students trying to pay their education bills and plan for careers after graduation. That issue and the fear of deportation have triggered anti-Trump protests at some California campuses.

Addressed to Trump at Trump Tower in New York, the joint letter urged the president-elect to continue DACA and “allow these young people to continue to pursue a college education and contribute to their communities and the nation.”

It continues: “DACA is rooted in the fundamental premise that no one should be punished for the actions of others. In order to be eligible for DACA, an individual must have been brought to this country as a minor, stayed out of trouble and continued to pursue an education. These sons and daughters of undocumented immigrants are as American as any other child across the nation, in all but in the letter of the law. Some never even spoke the language of their native land. They do not represent a public safety threat. In fact, they represent some of the best our nation has to offer.”

DACA should be maintained while the new administration and Congress tackle a broader discussion of immigration policy, according to the three California education officials. “There will be time for a vigorous debate and dialogue around immigration reform in the days ahead, and we look forward to engaging with you in a healthy and constructive conversation on this important issue,” they wrote.

The letter comes as undocumented students at California’s colleges and universities are expressing fear of DACA’s possible revocation but also relief that campuses here pledge to maintain the generous benefits offered to them. In contrast to more politically conservative states, California’s public higher education systems grant in-state tuition discounts and financial aid to undocumented students and are looking at ways to boost such help if DACA is ended and students lose their work permits.

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  1. Floyd Thursby 4 months ago4 months ago

    What if we came up with a grand compromise on immigration between the two extremes. What if we say that kids in college can have a path to citizenship if they complete their degree, but that those who commit crimes will be deported aggressively if convicted. All those who are militantly defending immigrants would then agree to fully support deportation of any immigrant who moves here after February 1, 2017. Among the rest, … Read More

    What if we came up with a grand compromise on immigration between the two extremes. What if we say that kids in college can have a path to citizenship if they complete their degree, but that those who commit crimes will be deported aggressively if convicted. All those who are militantly defending immigrants would then agree to fully support deportation of any immigrant who moves here after February 1, 2017.

    Among the rest, those with full employment could have a worker status and a path to citizenship if they complete a degree in night school, but those who are unemployed or taking welfare would be deported. We could all agree to grant a path to the best, hardest working immigrants, but set a line after which both sides agree not to support rights for anyone who moves after a set date.

    Most immigrants work hard and contribute to society, but there are some who hurt society. I think we have a right to prevent immigration from those who make America worse and encourage it from those who make America better. This is basically Australia’s policy. The main factor is, what is your impact on America?

  2. Mark Bailey 4 months ago4 months ago

    If only the young were affected, a case could be made for DACA. But there are other consequences that are usually ignored. To start with, unless you will consider setting up private or public guardianship for the young, their parents get to stay also. The parents have no claim to innocence that the DACA youth have, but are clearly here illegally and by choice. Secondly, the DACA youth are competing with the legal … Read More

    If only the young were affected, a case could be made for DACA. But there are other consequences that are usually ignored.

    To start with, unless you will consider setting up private or public guardianship for the young, their parents get to stay also. The parents have no claim to innocence that the DACA youth have, but are clearly here illegally and by choice.

    Secondly, the DACA youth are competing with the legal immigrants for opportunity and benefits.

    Third, the DACA youth are competing with the citizens (by choice or by luck of birthplace) of this country. If the California institutions of higher learning will fund the DACA cohort, without increasing the tax burden on the state or the federal government, the the DACA youth in California are welcome to earn an education and perhaps a chance at citizenship.

    But I have not heard of any effort by California schools to find the funding for these students except at a cost to other students or taxpayers. A child brought into this country as a youth may not be responsible for his situation, but neither am I.