President Donald Trump put Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, on the edge, and threatened thousands of undocumented students in the UC system.
Students whose status in the United States is in legal limbo face a steep uphill struggle in this country everyday. DACA, a relatively recent immigration policy established in 2012, provides some relief from the looming threat of deportation. In the UC system alone, there are an estimated 3,700 undocumented students.
There shouldn’t be any question of an immigrant’s right to live here, to go to school here or to make a home here. But because the political reality continues to undermine students’ legal statuses and lives, the University of California and the Berkeley campus must step up and expand their support services.
The university cannot just take an empty moral stance. After the November election, UC officials voiced their commitment to protecting the undocumented community, announcing UC campus police would not aid federal immigration enforcement efforts or release confidential student records without court orders. Last year, UC President Janet Napolitano made a three-year commitment to devote $8.4 million annually for undocumented students’ support. Recent events show, however, this is not enough.
With increasing uncertainty about their futures, undocumented students carry an unimaginable burden. Since Trump’s election, that small respite for DACA beneficiaries has been at risk, reflected by the increase in students who must turn to campus legal services for help.
The UC Immigrant Legal Services Center’s caseload rose dramatically to more than 800 for the 2016-17 year, as compared with 362 the previous year, according to the Los Angeles Times. It is reassuring to see UC Berkeley’s own Undocumented Students Program has recently hired an additional staff member for its mental health support.
But in the coming months, the university must boost both these legal and mental health services. It goes beyond simply allocating resources to undocumented students whose DACA status is being threatened — the campus must work to create a culture of respect for its students that should extend to all undocumented people in the United States. This community has been very clear about what it needs. All the university needs to do is listen.
For every one of the 3,700 undocumented students enrolled in the UC system, there are potentially hundreds of undocumented middle-school and high-school students aspiring to attend one of its campuses. Not only does the program ensure a level of stability for some UC students, but it also helps support a pipeline of undocumented K-12 students to a university that is historically unfriendly to minority populations. To repeal DACA is to close doors for young people.
At this tipping point, it is crucial that the university ramp up efforts in greater proportion than the political rhetoric that seeks to erase this segment of our community.