Board opposes DACA dismissal, writes Congress

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An immigration advisory council will host clinics to help DACA students.

By Zachary-Taylor Wright

zwright9@student.alamo.edu

The board of trustees expressed a stance on the dismissal of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, defended the students protected by the executive order repealed by President Donald Trump and approved a letter to Congress opposing the dismissal at a special board meeting Sept. 12 at Killen Center.

Board Chair Yvonne Katz, District 7 trustee, began discussion of the letter expressing concern for the repercussions of DACA’s dismissal and said the letter is addressed to Congress and the U.S. president.

Katz pleaded with national leaders to be fair and considerate of undocumented students in the U.S., asking Congress to do right by the students in Alamo Colleges.

Chancellor Bruce Leslie said the dismissal of DACA is in direct opposition to the district’s mission of “empowering our diverse communities for success” because the estimated 1,000 students in the district protected by the order are expected to be deported and future students won’t be able to attend the Alamo Colleges.

Leslie estimated there are about 20 employees who might be affected by the executive order’s dismissal. He opposed the action from a moral perspective and said the dismissal will have an adverse effect on the district’s effort to lead a diverse community.

Carmen de Luna Jones, offsite coordinator of Brackenridge Education and Training Center and coordinator of the district’s immigration advisory council, urged employees to donate to the Alamo Colleges Foundation’s DREAMers scholarship. 

Jones said DACA is an executive order established by former President Barrack Obama that allowed certain children who are were under the age of 16 and emigrated to the U.S. prior to June 15, 2012.

Jones said the executive order deferred removal action of DACA-accepted individuals for two years, allowing renewal at the end of the two years. She said the executive order was a temporary solution, rather than a pathway to citizenship, for undocumented immigrants to obtain a Social Security number.

According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security website, DACA was rescinded Sept. 5 and Congress is expected to resolve the DREAMers conflict by March.

Jones said having a Social Security number allowed undocumented immigrants to seek work outside of cash-only jobs and allowed the immigrants to obtain a state identification card or driver’s license. 

Jones said this is a sad situation and community partners and organizations are working together to inform DACA students and their families of resources to reapply. She said any DACA-exempt immigrants who were eligible for DACA renewal between Sept. 5 and March 5 have until Oct. 5 to reapply.

Jones said the application deadline is outrageous. 

She said the application costs $495, and several immigrants exempt under DACA need financial assistance to apply for renewal. Jones said the Mexican Consulate and organizations are helping local undocumented immigrants fund the application process.

During the board meeting Sept. 12, Jones said the dismissal of DACA has created a strong need for mental health assistance in counseling to help students struggling with stress; she said students coming to her are very concerned with the potential consequences of the dismissal.

In the interview, Jones said she wanted DREAMers to know there are several allies and advocates in support of them and opposing any legislation that would harm students in the district.

District 5 trustee Roberto Zárate commended the chancellor for drafting the letter, but he said the district’s efforts cannot cease here. He urged the board to address Congress through lobbying. 

“This isn’t about policy,” Zárate said. “It’s about lives.”

Katz shared a personal story relayed from a 2017-18 recipient of a scholarship in Katz’s name at the University of Texas at San Antonio, who is a DACA student.

Katz described his experience emigrating to this country with his family, recalling his separation from his parents as a child during the process as the children took a truck into the U.S. and the parents came across the Rio Grande.

Katz said he is currently an English-as-a-second-language teacher in a local school district, and he is pursuing a master’s degree in public school administration because he wants to be able to help DACA students like himself.

In reference to the impact a community college letter might have at the national level, District 6 trustee Gene Sprague offered encouragement by saying there are members in Congress listening to the district.

“You have to think that when you do a letter like this, it has impact,” Sprague said.

Jones has worked with undocumented students in this district since 2001, when the Texas residency laws were instituted. Jones said these laws allowed undocumented students to attend college and pay in-district tuition if they had graduated from a Texas high school.

The letter addressed to Congress states that 1,000 DREAMers are enrolled in the district and describes these students as “dedicated and highly motivated students, as evidenced by their college retention rate of 89.2 percent and productive grade rate of 76.5 percent.”

In an interview with The Ranger Sept. 13, Velda Villarreal, district director for institutional research, said she could not verify if the retention and productive grade rates only represented DACA students.

DACA students were identified by their tuition status category by determining students who pay in-district tuition but are not residents.

Villarreal said she was not sure if all students protected by Texas residency laws, which their search criteria would identify, are DACA students.

In the Sept. 12 interview, Jones said she hopes Congress will pass the Dream Act, which she said is a proposed nonpartisan act that will help with immigration reform rather than a temporary solution.

“They (DACA students) are so resilient, and they have done so well,” Jones said. “This is now hanging on their shoulders, on their families.”

Jones said the immigration advisory council will sponsor a DACA clinic to help students and their families fill out renewal applications noon-6 p.m. Sept. 28 in the Legacy Room of Ozuna Library and Learning Center at Palo Alto College.

Jones said the immigration advisory council will also sponsor two “Educate to Empower” sessions at this college with panelists Jones; district police Chief Don Adams; and Elizabeth Almanza, American Gateways outreach coordinator. Representatives from the Mexican Consulate and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will be available to answer questions.

The two sessions will be 9:30-10:30 a.m. and 11 a.m.-noon Sept. 19 in the library performance area on the fourth floor of Moody Learning Center.

For more information about the resources for DACA students, legislation or the immigration advisory council’s events, visit www.alamo.edu/district/daca/.

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