In Los Angeles, schools have been installing support programs for undocumented students since before the election of President Donald Trump. Now, many are wondering how students could be affected by the impending end to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
The Obama-era DACA program protects people who entered the United States illegally as children from deportation and gives them the ability to work here legally. With President Trump’s decision, the government will stop processing new DACA applications. Those already covered by the program whose permits expire by March 5, 2018, have one month, until Oct. 5, to renew their permits. The U.S. Congress is supposed to come up with a replacement program in the next six months.
What does that mean for grade school and college students in Los Angeles? Here are a few ways they could be affected:
LAUSD came out swinging on Tuesday morning after the DACA announcement. The district said its campuses will still be “safe zones” for immigrants and their families and that the district won’t allow immigration enforcement agents on campuses without an OK from district officials. Additionally, the district doesn’t ask students or their families about their immigration status.
This is the big potential challenge for college students covered by DACA. Although community colleges are relatively inexpensive, if students can’t work, they risk being unable to support themselves.
Those with work permits under DACA still have valid permits and can use them until they expire. With a renewal, they could get a permit that’s valid until 2020. And that’s enough time to finish a community college degree or take two years of courses in preparation to transfer to a four-year university, said Florentino Manzano, vice president of student services at Los Angeles Valley College.
For now, stay the course, L.A. Valley College is telling DACA students.
“We are reaching out to our students and letting them know, first and foremost, do not abandon school. There’s nothing going on now that’s going to affect you,” Manzano said. For those with work permits, “stay at work. Don’t leave work.”
Francisco Rodriguez, chancellor of Los Angeles Community College District, echoed that in a message to students. “For now, our message is clear: Stay enrolled in school and, if working, maintain your employment. Do nothing to jeopardize your current status.”
The college district estimates it has 11,000 undocumented students.
Even more than looming expiration of work permits, fear could depress attendance, Manzano said.
Undocumented students fearing deportation could avoid school or not apply for admission at all, he said.
“What we’re going to see as a big first effect is that they will not be showing up.”
LAUSD Board President Ref Rodriguez said the fear about immigration enforcement that followed the U.S. presidential election is reappearing.
“The issue of fear, whether it’s themselves or it’s a family member” is a concern for students with the end of DACA, he said. “All of a sudden, we’re having that conversation coming again about whether or not they’re going to be safe.”
Tuition and financial aid
The end of DACA could limit options for high school students now looking at their higher education aims, Ref Rodriguez said. Out-of-state or private school might be off the table. To get federal financial aid, students need social security numbers, which they could get through DACA.
For many undocumented immigrant students, AB 540 will still be of help, Ref Rodriguez said. But that’s only if those students go to California schools.
AB 540, signed into law in 2001, lets undocumented students who meet certain requirements, such as having attended a California high school, pay in-state tuition, far cheaper than out-of-state tuition.
CSUN President Dianne Harrison said her school, the most popular for LAUSD graduates according to a recent study, will continue to use AB 540. “Indeed, as is currently the case, qualified applicants who are undocumented will continue to be admitted to the CSU, and the provisions of AB 540 and the California Dream Act will continue to apply for all eligible students.”
Ref Rodriguez advised students to stay positive.
“Stay optimistic that Congress will fix this,” he said.
“We have some of the best universities in the nation, or in the world,” he added. “Going to our public universities is a good second option. For some of these people, it’ll be the first option.”
Several college systems and LAUSD have online resources for undocumented students and their families. Here are some:
CSUN last week opened a Student Legal Support Clinic, in part to help students faced with immigration enforcement action with legal services.
The Cal State University system has an online list of questions and answers for DACA students, including information on travel and how to respond to immigration enforcement agents.
The University of California system has online resources for undocumented students.