The Long Beach Community College Board of Trustees took a defiant step against the new administration in Washington last night in passing a resolution that seeks to shield its undocumented students from deportation or any other policies enacted by the nation’s president.
Co-authored by Trustees Sunny Zia and Doug Otto, the resolution calls for the district to advocate on behalf of those students that were granted deferred action on deportation or renewable two-year work permits under former President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program enacted in 2012.
Zia, a first generation Persian-American trustee elected in 2014, said that she was honored to be a part of the fight for unwavering support for Long Beach City College students. The motion passed the five-member board with unanimous support. The point of the resolution she said was to broadcast a uniform message to all students on campus that the school's administration is behind them and that it will do everything in its legal power to ensure that they're able to complete their educational goals at LBCC.
"Despite what’s happening, the statements that have been made by the administration, by this current president, we’re going to stand behind our students to protect them at every level of government," Zia said "And we’re not going to back down."
The DACA program extended to those students brought to this country by their parents before their eighteenth birthdays and before June 2007 that were currently in school, a high school graduate or honorably discharged from the United States military without a felony conviction. California nearly doubles the next closest state in terms of number of DACA applications approved with nearly 216,000 being granted from August 2012 through September of last year according to the Pew Research Center.
President Donald Trump had centered much of his campaign rhetoric on immigration reform and promised to cancel Obama’s two executive orders on immigration—including DACA—as well as build a wall between the US and Mexico and put an end to sanctuary cities.
On his 10-point plan regarding his plans for immigration Trump’s website says that upon repealing Obama’s executive amnesties “all immigration laws will be enforced” and anyone who enters the country illegally will be “subject to deportation.”
In November, higher education leaders in the state sent a letter to the then President-elect urging him to continue the program. The letter was signed by University of California President Janet Napolitano, California State University Chancellor Tim White and former LBCCD Superintendent-President and current California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Oakley.
“The University of California, California State University, and the California Community College systems each have thousands of DACA students studying at our institutions,” the letter read. “They are constructive and contributing members of our communities. They should be able to pursue their dream of higher education without fear of being arrested, deported, or rounded up for just trying to learn.”
Trump signed multiple executive orders of his own this morning, one of which directed the commencement of building the border wall and others that sought to curtail immigration to the United States from a variety of countries.
Newly elected United States Senator Kamala Harris said these moves would not only work to rip families apart but could also jeopardize national security and harm public safety. Harris questioned the ability of Trump’s orders to deliver on his promises to make the country safer, noting that it will undoubtedly lead to reduced rates of reported crimes as vulnerable communities sink back into the shadows for fear of deportation.
“In its first few days, this new Administration has consistently acted against the interests of those who are voiceless and vulnerable. As a career prosecutor and as a senator representing the state with the highest number of immigrants, I’d urge my colleagues in Congress to uphold America’s tradition of standing up to protect these communities.”
The text of the resolution states that LBCC will continue to provide support to DACA students including helping them apply for college and financial aid through the California Dream ACT, providing support for legal services and or counseling as well as places to study and other appropriate supportive services. Zia said the school would certainly respond to requests from federal agencies should they request information on DACA students, but the response would be "within the values" of the college which were outlined in the text of the resolution.
While the resolution has no legal authority, it does put LBCC on the same footing as similar institutions throughout the state, including Cal State Long Beach, that have instituted policies aimed at inclusion regardless of immigration status. Additionally, the state’s legislature has announce plans to combat the Trump administration’s climate and immigration policies and has even retained a lawyer to represent it in anticipated lawsuits.
"Let’s just assume that the state didn’t do that," Zia said. "This is the right thing to do. Irrespective of what the state and other bodies have done this is what we’re going to do for our students. We’re going to protect them. And their abilitiy to make their lives better and contribute back to society hinges on their ability to feel like they’re protected and they’re not living in fear."