On September 5, 2017, President Donald Trump announced his administration’s intent to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which was put into place in 2012 by President Barack Obama. The administration announced that the program would end on March 5, 2018, with individual DACA recipients being allowed to stay through their allowed time (up to two years) past that date.
Well, March 5 is upon us, and DACA remains. The government has seen two shutdowns and countless meetings to try to resolve the issue, with no solution in sight. Fortunately, DACA is not the only program under which students in California can be protected; Assembly Bill 540, better known as the Dream Act, also provides similar protections to students and other Californians. In addition, the California government is renewing efforts to actively pursue solutions to protect undocumented students.
In February, 2018, the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office Legal Counsel issued a legal interpretation of two recently passed bills: Senate Bill 54 (DeLeon, 2017) and Assembly Bill 21 (Kalra, 2017). Both bills address issues around the protections of students within public educational institutions and institutional roles within the purview of sanctuary state status in California. Senate Bill 54, as interpreted by the Chancellor’s Office, “…eliminates state and local law enforcement discretion to use money and personnel to investigate, interrogate, detain, detect, or arrest persons, or to conduct other activities for immigration enforcement purposes.“ This does not apply if a serious crime has been committed. It applies to community college police as local law enforcement. This bill became law on January 1, 2018, and the California Attorney General’s Office is expected to publish model policies around this legislation by October 2018.
The second piece of legislation is Assembly Bill 21, which, according to the Chancellor’s Office interpretation, “places a number of affirmative obligations on community college districts to prevent student, staff, and faculty from participation in federal immigration enforcement efforts ‘to the fullest extent consistent with state and federal law’.” The bill is intended to protect the state’s students, faculty, staff, and the public by ensuring that everyone in California has an opportunity to pursue an education free from intimidation and without fear or undue risk. This bill spells out a number of different requirements for the community colleges, including requiring districts not to disclose personal information about students, faculty, and staff; requiring districts to notify colleges if immigration officials are on, or expected to be, on campus; and requiring districts to identify a single point of contact on each campus to whom immigration officials would report.
Of perhaps more immediacy for faculty is that Assembly Bill 21 requires that districts hold undocumented students harmless. The bill states that, “In the event that an undocumented student is detained, deported, or is unable to attend to his or her academic requirements due to an immigration enforcement action, the college district shall make all reasonable efforts to assist the student in retaining any eligibility for financial aid, fellowship stipends, exemption from nonresident tuition fees, funding for research or other educational projects, housing stipends or services, or other benefits he or she has been awarded or received, and permit the student to be re-enrolled if and when the student is able to return to the college.“ For faculty, that would mean allowing students who are detained, deported, or otherwise unable to attend their classes to make up work, take exams late, or provide other assistance or accommodations for students. To this end, faculty could also use the new non-evaluative “Excused Withdrawal (EW)” symbol, which was recently approved by the Board of Governors in January and created for cases where a student’s withdrawal occurred beyond his or her control. More details about both bills, including the Chancellor’s Office Legal Division interpretation, can be found here: http://extranet.cccco.edu/Portals/1/Legal/Advisories/18-01_Sanctuary_Jurisdiction_Advisory.ADA.pdf
Other legislation also intends to protect undocumented students. Senate Bill 183 (Lara, as of March 5, 2018), would “prohibit federal immigration enforcement agents, officers, or personnel from entering a building owned and occupied, or leased and occupied, by the state, a public school, or a campus of the California community colleges, to perform surveillance, effectuate an arrest, or question an individual therein, without a valid federal warrant.” In addition, with a warrant, the officers would be limited to dealing with only the individual for whom the warrant was issued. That bill was read in the State Assembly in January 2018 and is still active as of this writing.
Finally, the Intersegmental Committee of Academic Senates (ICAS), which is comprised of representatives from the University of California (UC), California State University (CSU), and California Community College (CCC) academic senates, sent a letter to UC President Janet Napolitano and Chancellors Timothy White of CSU and Eloy Ortiz Oakley of the CCC to request that they “…jointly explore the possibility of expanding these support services and, if feasible, allow DACA and Dreamer students to use the support facilities and services at any UC, CSU or CCC campus statewide, regardless of their enrollment in a different system, without fear of repercussion or retribution and without need for payment.” All three system leaders have agreed to engage in these discussions; their responses, along with the original letter, can be found on the ASCCC DACA resources page (https://www.asccc.org/resources-daca-and-undocumented-students). These responses, as well as the legislative efforts and ASCCC responses mentioned above, will be part of the ASCCC Equity and Diversity Action Committee (EDAC) regionals held in April; information can be found on the ASCCC.org website.
As faculty leaders, providing a safe environment for our students is essential for student success. The continued efforts by the leaders of the California Legislature and the three segments of public higher education are encouraging and hopefully will send a clear message to our students that they are valued, appreciated, and crucial to the future of California.