BUSD joins lawsuit against Trump administration over DACA repeal

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The Berkeley Unified School District announced in a press release Tuesday that it has joined seven other California school districts and other education agencies in a federal lawsuit that seeks to block the Trump administration’s repeal of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA.

According to BUSD spokesperson Charles Burress, the district joined an amicus curiae brief that was filed Nov. 1, which consolidates five suits against the Trump administration that were already pending. One of these suits was filed by the UC Board of Regents in September.

The brief was drafted by Emma Leheny from the National Education Association in Washington, D.C. It addresses how DACA has benefited students in California, providing them the opportunity to receive both high school and undergraduate educations and find employment.

“We filed the amicus brief in order to educate (the) court on the impact that rescinding (it) would have on K-12 education systems,” said Andra Donovan, BUSD’s attorney in the suit.

Donovan said that rescinding DACA will destabilize schools and negatively impact student learning. She added that school children are experiencing trauma because they are afraid of being deported.

About 5,000 DACA recipients work in the education system in California, according to the complaint. Donovan said the diversity of the workforce is at risk with the repeal of DACA. She added that she is concerned about funding for schools because if children are deported, the budget will no longer reflect the resources needed for the number of students enrolled.

Berkeley High School senior Marielena Rodas is the president of Chicano Latino United Voices, an organization that advocates and creates dialogue for social justice. The organization offers a place for Latinx individuals, undocumented students, dreamers, refugees and U.S. citizens to voice their opinions and make them feel more comfortable at BHS.

Rodas said she thought BUSD’s participation in the suit is “necessary” for people to speak out against the DACA repeal.

“It’s your duty, especially people with privilege, to speak out for justice, especially if you’re doing it for children,” Rodas said. “(Education) is a right, not a privilege. It’s necessary to use resources available to protect that and give them that opportunity.”

Rodas said she has noticed that many students fear for their status in the United States. She added that although Berkeley is an accepting place, some students in the undocumented community have told her that they are still afraid about how to behave at school and who to trust for help.

BHS students showed their support for DACA recipients in September, when they created a human chain around the perimeter of the school. According to Rodas, the walkout was organized with the support of the school’s administration.

BHS senior Uma Nagarajan-Swenson said the walkout and the lawsuit are both signs of solidarity with undocumented students.

“I definitely support the school in doing this (lawsuit),” Nagarajan-Swenson said. “I think it’s very important that they send the message that we’re in solidarity with all the students that could be affected by it.”

Contact Gioia von Staden at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @GioiaVon.