Students, faculty and staff at Cal State Long Beach met Tuesday night to discuss issues regarding immigration, including DACA and travel bans, with immigration experts and government officials.
DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, was implemented by the Obama administration in June 2012. Under the program, immigrants who entered the country illegally prior to the age of 16 can be eligible for a two-year period of deferred action from deportation, among other provisions.
Rep. Alan Lowenthal, whose district includes Long Beach, said that the future of DACA is uncertain, as the Trump administration has yet to deliver a definitive stance on the policy.
During the Obama administration, Lowenthal said DACA applications were usually expedited when they were up for renewal; however, the Trump administration isn’t “making it any easier.”
“I’m very worried about democracy,” he said.
Gaby Hernandez, vice president of CSULB’s student group F.U.E.L, shared her story of being brought to the United States as a child. Hernandez’s DACA renewal application has been under review for six months.
“The fear is constant,” she said.
Once Hernandez graduates in May, she doesn’t know what the future holds.
“It’s very frustrating… this is all I know,” she said. “I recently went back to Mexico and it was foreign to me.”
“How do you say to someone ‘you made an illegal entry’ when they were 1?” – immigration attorney Ruben Martinez @LongBeachPost
— Michaela Kwoka (@newsmichaelakc) April 19, 2017
Terrence Graham, associate dean for the Center for International Education, said that the immigration climate has international students studying at CSULB worried.
After President Trump signed the first travel ban in January and the second in March, Graham and other officials warned students from the affected countries to avoid travel.
There are currently 52 students from the affected countries completing their degrees at CSULB, he said, and they were advised not to go out of the country for spring break or return home during summer vacation.
In addition, university officials estimate that CSULB currently enrolls nearly 1,000 undocumented students, university spokeswoman Terri Carbaugh said back in February. Carbaugh also noted at the time that 106 students (53 visa holders and 53 green card holders) were affected by Trump’s executive order banning travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries.
Graham also warned that the current immigration rhetoric and political climate could be discouraging international students from applying to the university. While there was a slight uptick in applications for international freshman for the 2017-2018 academic year, applications for international students in graduate programs decreased 34 percent.
While the future of DACA and immigration policy is unclear coming from Washington, Lowenthal said it’s more important than ever for Long Beach residents to be involved and to speak out.
“Long Beach, not perfectly but in general, is doing the right thing,” he said. “We can’t solve everything, we’re a lot different than Washington – we have resources here, we try to help and we welcome people to be part of our community. I think we should support each other or more… and speak out when we see injustice.”