Marcos Mohammad, a senior at Berkeley High School, had a question the morning after Donald J. Trump was elected president of the United States: “How will he find me?” asked Mohammad, an undocumented immigrant from Peru. He walked along a wooded path on the UC Berkeley campus with six of his high school friends, all of them undocumented immigrants, all members of the small Newcomers Program for immigrants at Berkeley High and all of them anxious.
They carried signs — “Love still trumps hate” — from a rally of hundreds of Berkeley High students at the UC Berkeley Campanile tower that included vigorous anti-Trump chants as well as a call for students to take action to protect civil rights. Mohammad said he feared Trump would fulfill his promise to begin mass deportations of children and adults who are in the country without legal documentation. “How will he find people that don’t have papers?” he asked.
He is not alone in his concern. More than 360,000 immigrants in California, the largest number in any state in the country, are here under temporary amnesty from deportation under a federal program called DACA — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. To be eligible, the immigrants must have arrived in the United States when they were under 16 years old, must have been under age 31 in 2012, and must renew their application every 12 to 24 months. President Barack Obama established the program in 2012 through an executive order. With a stroke of a pen when he takes office, Trump can eliminate the program.
In the state with the largest immigrant population in the country, a state of anxiety is in full throttle, according to immigrant advocates. To express their support for immigrants, as well as for other groups vulnerable to Trump policies concerning the right to a legal abortion and other issues, hundreds of students walked out of classes at Berkeley High and Oakland Technical High School on Wednesday. Hundreds of students also protested in Los Angeles and at UC campuses including Davis, Santa Cruz, Irvine and Los Angeles. The hashtag #StudentsAgainstTrump was used by some student organizers to plan and publicize their actions.
Half of the children in California have at least one immigrant parent, according to a 2013 brief from the Public Policy Institute of California, a nonpartisan research organization. California is home to more immigrants than any other state — about 10 million — with about three-quarters of them here as legal residents, and about a quarter undocumented, according to the brief.
Steve Zimmer, president of the Los Angeles Unified School District school board, acknowledged that the election had stirred up fears of deportation. “We know there may be feelings of fear and anxiety, especially within our most vulnerable communities,” Zimmer wrote in a statement posted on the school district website. “The district is providing additional supports to those who need it.”
In Fresno, Miguel Arias, executive director of community and family services at the Fresno Unified School District, said the district was dealing with “some of the fear of some students and families.”
Todd Oto, superintendent of the Visalia Unified School District, said that some immigrant families fear the future. “People are concerned because they don’t know what the impact or implication will be,” he said.
“I saw my father cry last night,” said Olivia Mesa, 16, a junior at Oakland Technical High School, at the rally in front of the school. Her father, who runs a small home repair service, emigrated to this country from Cuba without documentation, Olivia said. She was born in the United States, but her sister was not. “We are probably going to be sent back,” she said. “He has made it very clear Latinos aren’t welcome.”
Lizbeth Mendieta, 14, an 8th-grader at Claremont Middle School in Oakland, said her mother doesn’t have immigration papers yet — she is waiting for them to be approved — and was afraid to drive her to school on Wednesday. “She was nervous that a police officer was going to be stopping her and telling her to go back,” Mendieta said.
In an interview, Cynthia Buiza, executive director of the California Immigrant Policy Center, sought to reassure students and families, but could offer no guarantees. “They are lucky they are in California,” Buiza said of student concerns. “No one is doing any checkpoints.” She said her organization is putting together a fact sheet to answer a flood of calls for help and will refer concerned individuals to lawyers, if need be, including those who will work pro bono.
The California Immigrant Policy Center and other groups successfully lobbied for the Truth Act, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in September, which extends protections of the so-called Trust Act of 2014, which requires due process of law before immigrants who are stopped by law enforcement officers are deported. Brown also signed into law legislation that allows children whose parents lack immigration documentation to receive health care coverage in California. And undocumented individuals can get a California driver’s license.
Buiza took solace, too, she said, in a statement issued Wednesday by California Senate President pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Paramount.
The statement was a promise to fight for rights that California residents have enjoyed. “We will be reaching out to federal, state and local officials to evaluate how a Trump presidency will potentially impact federal funding of ongoing state programs, job-creating investments reliant on foreign trade, and federal enforcement of laws affecting the rights of people living in our state,” de León and Rendon said.
“We will maximize the time during the presidential transition to defend our accomplishments using every tool at our disposal.”
EdSource reporter Theresa Harrington contributed to this report.
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