Tensions high as UC Berkeley awaits Trump’s announcement of DACA’s fate

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Campus freshman Victor Gonzalez was just another student passing through Sproul Plaza on Friday afternoon until he saw the rallya demonstration supporting DACA in response to President Donald Trump’s impending decision on the program’s future.

Gonzalez stopped, observed the rally from afar for a few minutes then picked up a sign and joined the protesters. Although Gonzalez is not an undocumented student, he said he wanted to make sure undocumented students feel supported.

“As a progressive school, we need first to move on in this movement and to show that we aren’t afraid,” Gonzalez said.

Trump is expected to make a formal announcement Tuesday to cut DACA, or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, after promising to end the program throughout his campaign. This immigration policy, issued in 2012 under former president Barack Obama, allows undocumented individuals who came into the United States as minors to defer deportation for a renewable two-year period and to obtain a work permit.

About 400 to 500 undocumented students are on campus, according to former campus undocumented student and ASUC senator Benyamin bin Mohd Yusof. Yusof noted that these numbers could be an underestimate given that the respondents were volunteers, with some undocumented students choosing not to report their statuses.

“This is a chance to unite and … no longer be afraid to advocate for ourselves, because we’ve reached the point where if we don’t, we’re going to allow the folks who dehumanize us to continue to do so,” Yusof said.

Many California representatives have spoken out in support of the DACA program to oppose Trump’s rumored decision. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., released a statement Monday calling for House Republicans to assist Democrats in passing legislation protecting DACA individuals from deportation and legal repercussions.  

Along with Pelosi, UC President Janet Napolitano voiced her support for the DACA program in her Aug. 28 newsletter. Napolitano wrote that she has seen “exceptional contributions” by DREAMers in the UC system and encouraged Congress to approve the DREAM Act, which would permanently protect the DACA program.

“President Trump’s decision to end DACA should break the hearts and offend the morals of all who believe in justice and human dignity,” Pelosi wrote in her statement. “This cruel act of political cowardice deals a stunning blow to the bright young DREAMers and to everyone who cherishes the American Dream.”

According to campus junior transfer Richard Alejandro Alvarado, Trump’s attacks on DACA are a sign of weakness within his supporters and that threatening DACA is an attempt to appeal to his main audience, which, he said, is composed of white nationalists. Alvarado added that taking away DACA would be “a huge step back,” criminalizing students and attacking the country’s immigrant population.

Yvette Felarca, organizer for left-wing activist group By Any Means Necessary, or BAMN, and Berkeley Unified School District teacher, was at the BAMN rally Friday afternoon in support of DACA.  She said it was important to stand up for immigrant rights, as she has “no confidence on Trump’s empathy or the goodness of his heart.”

“If Trump were to repeal DACA, there’s going to be massive anger and outrage through California and throughout communities across the United States,” Felarca said. “Many who are going to college, all of whom went through the most rigorous background checks that anyone could be asked to do … are Americans as much as everyone else except for a piece of paper.”

According to Felarca, another protest in support of DACA and undocumented students is planned for Tuesday at 5 p.m. on the steps of Sproul Hall.

Contact Sakura Cannestra at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @SakuCannestra.