Alison Yin for EdSource
An estimated 72,000 students at California's public colleges and universities are undocumented.
This story was updated on Sept. 5 to reflect latest developments. 

Undocumented immigrant students will remain welcome at California colleges and universities, regardless of President Donald Trump’s decision on Tuesday to roll back legal protections for so-called “Dreamers,” education leaders said.

“Our doors will be wide open for all eligible undocumented students. They are welcome and wanted,” said Long Beach State President Jane Close Conoley. “And we will continue to offer state financial aid to those who are eligible.”

Following up on a campaign promise, Trump announced Tuesday the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, an executive order by President Barack Obama that provided temporary legal protections for undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children. The Department of Homeland Security will no longer accept new DACA applications, and those who currently hold DACA permits will not be able to renew them if they expire after March 5, 2018. Those whose permits expire before March 5, 2018, must apply for renewal by Oct. 5.

Trump called the DACA program unconstitutional and an executive abuse of power by Obama, “an end-run around Congress” that violated “the core tenets that sustain our Republic,” according to the Washington Post. He pressured Congress to pass immigration laws addressing the plight of so-called Dreamers.

The DACA program, enacted in 2012, allows undocumented residents over the age of 15 to apply for two-year work permits and be protected from deportation during that time. DACA protections are renewable indefinitely, as long as the applicant is not convicted of a crime. DACA does not provide a path to citizenship, nor does it allow recipients to vote.

In California, 242,339 young people have received DACA status since 2012, according to the Migration Policy Institute. While California’s public colleges and universities don’t track the number of DACA students enrolled, they estimate that 72,300 undocumented students are enrolled at the University of California, California State University and California Community Colleges (60,000 at community colleges, 8,300 at Cal State and 4,000 at UC). Nationwide, about 800,000 young people have received DACA status.

For college students, having DACA protections entitles you to work legally on campus, which is a requirement of some financial aid packages, and be free of the fear of immediate deportation. Stripped of DACA protections, undocumented college students will not be expelled from California public schools but they may lose some financial aid or be deported. Workers with DACA status may lose their jobs and likewise be deported.

“Ending DACA would be completely devastating, not just for undocumented families but for the entire U.S. economy,” said Prerna Lal, staff attorney at the East Bay Community Law Center and immigration attorney for UC Berkeley’s Undocumented Student Program. “For undocumented students, it’s very scary. They feel anxious, afraid and betrayed because they trusted the government and handed over all their personal data, which could lead to their deportation.”

Deporting DACA workers would have a huge impact on California’s economy, according to a report by the Center for American Progress, a nonpartisan think tank based in Washington, D.C. California, which has an estimated 194,000 DACA workers, stands to lose $11.6 billion in gross domestic product over the next decade based on lost wages and productivity, according to the report.

Jose Jesus Gonzalez, a Dreamer with DACA who recently graduated Sacramento State, said the Trump administration announcement triggered a mixture of emotions: sadness but also hope that Congress will act to protect the DACA recipients over the next six months.

“I’m being hopeful that there is something better to come. Hopefully Congress will act upon this and make the choice,” said Gonzalez, who is 27 and was brought from Mexico to the USA when he was five years old.

“It makes no sense to be sent back to the country where we were from.  We are going to be foreigners there,” said Gonzalez, who is now working as a social work investigator helping foster children.  He was able to renew his DACA status in July for the next two years but said he had a month’s gap without a work permit, and that he recalled was a scary time.

“It makes me sad more than mad,” he said.  When I didn’t have that work permit for that month, I thought about how all my schoolwork could go to nothing,” said Gonzalez, who often attended college part-time so he could earn money.  He also received the California Dream Act grants and a loan since he was ineligible for federal aid.

UC President Janet Napolitano, who was secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security when DACA was enacted, has been an outspoken supporter of the policy.

“The University and the state of California stand together in our belief that students should be admitted to UC and other institutions of higher education based on their records of achievement and without regard to their immigration status,” Napolitano said Tuesday. “I call upon the U.S. Congress to immediately pass bipartisan legislation that would provide a permanent solution for these young people — one that charts a secure pathway toward citizenship and allows these Dreamers to continue to live, work, and serve the only country most of them know as home.”

UC provides support for undocumented students at all 10 of its campuses. Cal State also provides resources and updates.

In 2001, California enacted AB 540, which allows undocumented students to enroll in public colleges and universities and pay in-state tuition and receive state financial aid, if they’ve lived in California for at least three years. That law remains intact, despite the possible repeal of DACA.

The California Community Colleges system enrolls the majority of the state’s undocumented college students, and provides resources and referrals for students and staff. The governing board also passed a resolution in January vowing to protect undocumented students if DACA is repealed, and has done extensive outreach to recruit and reassure immigrant students.

“Ending DACA is a heartless and senseless decision that goes against American ideals and basic human decency. 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,” said California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley. “Some have served in the armed forces defending this country. In California, we don’t put dreams — or Dreamers — on hold. The California Community Colleges remain committed to serving all students, regardless of immigration status and to providing safe and welcoming environments in which to learn. We will do all within our power to assist students affected by this decision, and we will advocate tirelessly in Congress for a permanent resolution to this issue.”

Cal State Chancellor Timothy White said, “There are thousands of students following the DACA pathway in pursuit of their higher education goals on a CSU campus. DACA has proven its worth by enabling these students to have hope and opportunity for a better tomorrow through a college education. We take great pride in the fact that graduates go on to support themselves, their families and their communities as tax-paying members of society in ways that benefit California and the nation.”

EdSource staff writer Larry Gordon contributed to this report. 

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  1. Dkel 3 months ago3 months ago

    “Ending DACA is a heartless and senseless decision that goes against American ideals and basic human decency,” said California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley. However, the larger and more alarming issue to me is the legal, ethical, and moral issue of the stance our leadership, such as Mr. Oakley is taking and modeling. … Read More

    “Ending DACA is a heartless and senseless decision that goes against American ideals and basic human decency,” said California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley.

    However, the larger and more alarming issue to me is the legal, ethical, and moral issue of the stance our leadership, such as Mr. Oakley is taking and modeling. An analysis by the Heritage Foundation concluded that DACA is illegal. Congress did not legalize DACA. President Trump extended Congress the opportunity to rectify the illegal order of DACA , which is far from being considered “heartless.”

    President Trump is ending an administrative amnesty for illegal aliens that President Barack Obama lacked the constitutional and legal authority to implement. How do we know? Because even Obama admitted it – repeatedly. In May 2011, Obama acknowledged that he couldn’t “just bypass Congress and change the (immigration) law myself. … That’s not how a democracy works.” But, in 2012, with DACA, Obama did bypass Congress and our Constitution. And Obama did this despite the fact that the immigration laws passed by Congress do not give the president the ability to do this. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a nationwide injunction against DAPA, which the Supreme Court allowed to stand. Under our Constitution, Congress has plenary authority over immigration. The president only has the authority delegated to him by Congress – and Congress has never given the president the power to implement DACA.

    However, I am concerned about the level of ethics and morals of our community college leadership which is openly announcing plans to defy the Constitution – even without the approval of the people of California. That is the real story and it is alarming. My question is what other laws is Mr. Oakley willing to defy?

  2. Fred Jones 3 months ago3 months ago

    This "editorial" provides (a very) negative perspective of the president's order, with barely a whisper of the Constitutional justifications for Trump's (delayed) revocation of an executive branch's act of fiat (one, incidentally, that President Obama stated many times he lacked the Constitutional authority to grant, then after granting it, urged Congress to codify his "temporary" order). Couldn't one of the two EdSource reporters who contributed to this story find someone to quote that could … Read More

    This “editorial” provides (a very) negative perspective of the president’s order, with barely a whisper of the Constitutional justifications for Trump’s (delayed) revocation of an executive branch’s act of fiat (one, incidentally, that President Obama stated many times he lacked the Constitutional authority to grant, then after granting it, urged Congress to codify his “temporary” order).

    Couldn’t one of the two EdSource reporters who contributed to this story find someone to quote that could provide the Constitutional argument for Trump’s act? Even if they and all of EdSource’s readership disagreed with that person’s legal opinion, wouldn’t that have been doing one’s journalistic due diligence?

    Instead, only a two-sentence summary of Trump’s Constitutional justification by the Washington Post is referenced, buried between several paragraphs of criticisms of Trump, replete with quotes of California officials and a political advocacy organization’s report all lambasting this heartless act.

    But how heartless was the president’s order? The 6-month delay was expressly to avoid hurting “Dreamers” by placing the Constitutionally mandated burden on Congress to do their law-making job, in the hopes that Washington will once again abide by the Supreme Law of our land. Compassion is important in policy-making, but should it trump our Constitutional requirements?

    What a missed opportunity to remind EdSource readers of the separation of powers and other bedrock civic realities that make America’s experiment in limited government unique in the world. But civics has been so marginalized in California classrooms, who cares anymore about those legalistic arguments? Better to focus on the emotions of only one side of this very real Constitutional question, since your readers must be ignorant of the constraints placed on each branch of government, including the presidency, right?

    Everyone here in California hates Trump, and he is so obviously a fascist why not pile on and ignore all journalistic standards? It’s the righteous thing to do.

    But whether this article’s slant is truly righteous or not, I can’t help but think “news articles” like these pose a more serious threat to our body politic than Trump’s erratic, term-limited Presidency.

    Between decreased educational time devoted to civics and a media that’s losing its ethical grounding in its headlong reach for righteousness, it’s no wonder why political violence is surging. We are losing the tools necessary to maintain a civil society.

    Replies

    • Paul 3 months ago3 months ago

      Only someone without knowledge of the mechanics of DACA could call Trump's approach "compassionate." The six-month delay is a sound byte, not a comprehensive reprieve. DACA participants whose status would expire by March 2018 can renew for another two years, within the next 30 days, but new applications are barred, effective immediately. Young people became eligible for DACA at age 15. While the nation waits for Congress to act, young people turning 15 over the next … Read More

      Only someone without knowledge of the mechanics of DACA could call Trump’s approach “compassionate.” The six-month delay is a sound byte, not a comprehensive reprieve.

      DACA participants whose status would expire by March 2018 can renew for another two years, within the next 30 days, but new applications are barred, effective immediately. Young people became eligible for DACA at age 15. While the nation waits for Congress to act, young people turning 15 over the next six months cannot apply and are at risk of immediate deportation. Their circumstances are the same: having been brought to the U.S. as children.

      Perhaps Ms. Jones chose not to devote much space to the constitutional problem because it is obvious. Everyone realizes that Obama’s executive order establishing DACA is vulnerable to legal challenge. Trump doesn’t have a good record with legally defensible executive orders, come to think of it! But Obama established DACA by executive order because Congress had failed to act for so long, and some action on immigration reform was warranted.

      Now we come to the heart of the matter. Congress has failed to act for years, and the current Congress is even less likely to reach agreement. If Trump were compassionate, he would have negotiated a legislative solution with House and Senate leaders before taking executive action to end DACA. Either he lacks the negotiating prowess, or he wants the Dreamers deported but wants to shift the blame (to a deadlocked Congress).

      • Fred Jones 3 months ago3 months ago

        Paul: I appreciate your thoughtful and measured response. But to clarify, I did not call Trump's order compassionate (though he does appear to have an opening in his heart for these particular illegal immigrants, hence no immediate repeal of what you and I clearly think was an unconstitutional executive order of Obama's that won't stand a legal challenge ... and his commitment today to "revisit" DACA if Congress fails to act). I wasn't making a … Read More

        Paul: I appreciate your thoughtful and measured response.

        But to clarify, I did not call Trump’s order compassionate (though he does appear to have an opening in his heart for these particular illegal immigrants, hence no immediate repeal of what you and I clearly think was an unconstitutional executive order of Obama’s that won’t stand a legal challenge … and his commitment today to “revisit” DACA if Congress fails to act).

        I wasn’t making a judgement call on the merits of DACA, just pointing out that this “news article” offered one diatribe and personal shot after another against Trump’s order, without providing any of the context and justification arguments for his action (other than those two sentences taken from Washington Post).

        And that was really the point of my Response: the breakdown of journalistic standards, just throwing fuel on the raging animosity we see playing out in our public squares all over this nation. Providing little if any context and only one, very emotional side to the Constitutional conflict.

        Given this site is dedicated to education policy, the civics lessons embedded in this DACA situation are numerous and potentially instructive for its readers. And I think the absence of those struggles in this reportage indicate the need for more civics lessons to be taught in our public schools.