FCC Community Vows to Stand by DACA Recipients
September 13, 2017
Community college leaders and Fresno City College faculty say they are standing behind the more than 1,200 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients in the State Center Community College District despite President Donald Trump’s announcement Sept. 5 that he is phasing out the program.
DACA has aided about 800,000 undocumented young people in the U.S. since its inception in 2012, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
“Ending DACA is a heartless and senseless decision that goes against American ideals and basic human decency,” said California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley in a statement on Sept. 5. “Those who are affected by this decision were brought to this country as children and are pursuing an education and making contributions to their communities. In California, we don’t put dreams — or Dreamers — on hold.”
At Fresno City College, one of those 1,200 dreamers in the district is a 20-year-old biology major, who is in college to become a sonographer. Although she declined to give her name for her safety, the woman said she was just offered a managerial position at her job, which she’s held since she applied for DACA in 2015.
She came to the U.S. from Mexico when she was 3, and said she belongs here as much as anyone else. “I am Mexican but this is my country too,” she said. “Others with much better opportunities waste their time in drugs and commit crimes. I don’t feel like that’s right.”
The woman is eligible to renew her DACA status before the deadline on Oct. 5, but now her dreams are up in the air. “It’s sad to know that after those two years are gone, I won’t have any help,” she said, “and that means I’ll probably have to be working in the fields and probably give up school.”
She’d like to at least see DACA become permanent. “A pathway to citizenship would be the best thing ever,” she said.
SCCCD chancellor Paul Parnell and Fresno City College president Carole Goldsmith also released statements after the announcement by Attorney General Jeff Sessions of DACA’s end.
“We have witnessed [DACA’s] success with those who have proudly served in the U.S. military and those who have graduated from college and are contributing to our economy as well as enriching our communities,” Parnell stated. “We will actively advocate Congress to find a permanent resolution to this issue.”
“The truth is, DACA works,” Goldsmith wrote in a college-wide email.
She also stated that she stands behind DACA students and wants to see legislation that “includes protection for DACA as well as creates a pathway for citizenship to ensure those that seek to live the American dream can live it and achieve it as so many others have before them.”
The term “dreamer” has been used to describe undocumented young immigrants, who may have benefitted from the Dream Act, which was similar to DACA, but was never passed in Congress, according to the Associated Press.
California lawmakers announced Sept. 12 that $10 million will go towards financial aid for DACA recipients in the state, which includes $7 million specifically for community colleges, according to an article by the Associated Press. California is also one of 19 states suing the Trump administration for ending the program, according to the article.
FCC’s Dream Center was busy all week with worried students, according to counselors.
The Dream Center, which opened in September 2015, is like a mini-counseling center that provides all the same services as the larger counseling center on campus, explained counselor Graciela Ramirez.
Ramirez said even though the center is geared towards undocumented students, anyone is welcome to come in for counseling or to sit in on workshops.
Dream Center counselor Erica Ramos said the center’s services will remain the same.
“I think more than ever, the doors are open for all the dreamers,” she said. “This is when we all need to come together and keep going.”
She wants students to know that the center is not closing.
“Your dreams don’t stop because DACA has ended,” Ramos tells students. “It should be the opposite. You should continue to get an education, regardless. Your degree will always be your degree. No one can take that from you.”
During the summer break, the center moved into a new space in OAB 137 from the Student Services building.
“We used to share a tiny little space with three different programs over there,” Sandra Velazquez, who is a counselor said. “Here we each have our own office and it’s a little bit more secluded and students feel a little bit better. We’ve gotten a lot of really great feedback from staff and students as well.”
Counselors say the most important point they want to get across to students is to keep getting their education.
“There were thousands of students being educated even before DACA came,” said Ramos. The counselors say there are other programs besides DACA that assist undocumented students at Fresno City College. The Dream Act allows undocumented students who meet certain criteria to apply for and receive certain non-state funded grants, scholarships and fee-waivers.
Ramos said the center is holding a ribbon cutting ceremony for their new space at 10 a.m. on Sept. 21 in the OAB rose garden. English instructor Marisol Baca will read poems and numerous groups and services, including the Mexican Consulate in Fresno, will pass out immigration information.
The center is also rolling out a new event for dreamers this semester. “Un Rinconcito para Soñadores” or “A Little Corner for Dreamers” is a concept Ramos thinks will help students feel like they’re not alone. For an hour each month, the Dream Center will be open for dreamers to meet and hang out.
She thinks it’s important for students to get to know each other. “Just to talk about life, just what is going on,” she said. “This is a place to laugh, cry, scream, whatever they want.”
“Use our services; here we are,” added Ramirez.
“Un Rinconcito para Soñadores” dates are Sept. 20 from 1 to 2 p.m.; Oct. 18 from 11 a.m. to noon; Nov. 8 from 10 to 11 a.m. and Dec. 13 from 1 to 2 p.m.
The Dream Center is also holding several community workshops in OAB 126, including one on Sept. 14 from 10 to 11 a.m. sponsored by the Insure America Project and Self Help Bank that will provide free immigration services and DACA loans.
Wilfredo Felix Gamez, counselor at the Dream Center, said a lot of things could happen between now and when DACA recipients graduate.
“Maybe in six months, Congress will pass something similar or better than DACA,” he said. “Who knows? Maybe between now and when they graduate, there will be a pathway to be[come] a resident. I push them and motivate them to stay in school and graduate.”
The Dream Center can be reached for more information at 559-443-8570, by emailing [email protected] or by visiting OAB 137.
FCC will also host a DACA town hall meeting on Sept. 20 in the Old Administration Building from 5 to 7 p.m. with Radio Bilingüe and FCC staff, including Goldsmith.