By Casi McIntyre
Editor in Chief
In response to a presidential executive order targeting minorities and immigrants, the chancellor of California Community Colleges took an exceptional stance and issued a directive that campus officials statewide not cooperate with government or law enforcement.
This order, Chancellor Elroy Oakley said, is designed to protect undocumented students from potential deportation.
Oakley released a statement in December vowing to support all 2.1 million students enrolled in the 113 community colleges throughout California, in agreement with the UC and CSU systems.
“Districts should not cooperate with any federal effort to create a registry … based on religion, national origin, race or sexual orientation [and] no confidential student records should be released without a judicial warrant, subpoena or court order,” Oakley stated in a press release.
The newly appointed chancellor also directed district police departments throughout the state “to not detain, question or arrest any individual solely on the basis of (suspected) undocumented immigration status.”
The statement was released after the chancellor met with leaders of University of California and the California State University to sign a letter asking the president to keep the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy.
DACA, a policy allowing undocumented students to stay in the country while going to school, was enacted four years ago by the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.
Oakley’s statement was also released prior to the Department of Homeland Security’s recent release of a plan to implement Trump’s executive order on immigration, which outlines sweeping policies that would enable Immigration and Customs agents to arrest those who are in the country illegally, regardless of whether they have a criminal record.
Legal and immigration experts say this plan paves the way for massive deportations.
However, the documents state those who are protected by DACA will not be affected.
Nonetheless, Trump’s order has still sent fear and anger rippling across college campuses throughout the country — even at Cuesta College.
“The fear is very real,” said Estella Vazquez, Cuesta’s enrollment success specialist for the Central Coast Coalition for Undocumented Student Success. “They [undocumented students] are afraid to come to college and leave their houses.”
DACA opens doors for undocumented students to apply for a driver’s license and obtain a work permit. Without DACA, Gonzalez says there was a lot more stress on her and her family, both financially and trying to find rides to school.
“Immigrants take longer to accomplish our [educational] goals,” said Brenda Gonzalez, a second year student on DACA who is majoring in childhood education. Gonzalez also works in the English as a Second Language building as a retention specialist.
With many undocumented students fearing deportation, Vazquez and Dana Tejada, president of the Cuesta Chapter for Latina Leadership Network, have have been discouraging first-time applicants to apply for DACA until the president decides its status.
Cuesta college has partnered with The Latina Leadership Network and the Central Coast Coalition for Undocumented Student Success. Each of these organizations help undocumented student’s struggles by providing resources on Cuesta’s campus along with Cal Poly and Allan Hancock.
Vazquez and Tejada held an “Undocu Ally” training session in December 2016 for LLN members and Cuesta faculty and staff.
Gonzalez said she feels a lot safer on campus after attending the Undocu Ally trainings.
During the trainings, students were instructed on what to do if immigration officials show up at Cuesta with the intention of deporting a student: They must first contact the dean, after which campus police would contact the instructor regarding the student in question.
Two other public trainings have been held on campus, with five Cuesta students joining faculty and staff to learn about the struggles of undocumented students and talk about resources available to them.
Additionally, a BOOST program has been created this semester to give $400 book vouchers to undocumented students.
An Undocumented Dreamer’s United Club has 15 Cuesta students signed up to begin meeting in in the spring semester. This club was started by Vazquez to create a safe and welcoming place for all undocumented students and to “embrace and celebrate our differences.”
Cuesta’s Police Department’s stance on immigration remains.
“Our department would not make any arrest based on someone’s immigration status, nor do we actively enforce federal immigration laws as college police officers,” said Byran Millard, Cuesta police chief.
Millard also said that the college police will not “detain, question, or arrest any individual based solely on immigration status” and that the department will uphold its mission to create a “safe learning environment with equal protection.”
If DACA is rescinded, many undocumented students would lose their jobs and be forced to drop out of school. Gonzalez says many undocumented students who have deportation orders are fearful because they are the first targets for the government to deport.
“Legal status doesn’t define us — we are human beings,” Gonzalez said. “We feel the same and think the same.”
Gonzalez is only one undocumented student who has made a better life for herself at Cuesta, but she said she speaks for many if these opportunities get taken away.
Through tears, Gonzalez said: “I can’t go back to being in the shadows.”
To read the complete articles from Cuesta in the time of Trump package check out the Cuestonian newspaper March 7.