Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB 3022 on Wednesday, retroactively granting diplomas to high school seniors deported from California.
This bill comes at a time when many undocumented students face uncertainty, given President Donald Trump’s efforts to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program — California alone has more than 200,000 DACA recipients.
According to the language of the bill, AB 3022 applies to a person who has had to leave California against their will while enrolled as a high school senior with good academic standing and has not yet received a high school diploma. In order to grant the diploma, the school district can consider coursework that the student may have completed outside of the United States or through online courses.
“People have devoted their lives to helping their child grow up in a safe place, and when those kids are deported right before they’re going to graduate, it is a real tragedy,” said Berkeley City Councilmember Kate Harrison.
State Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, the author of the bill, said the California school system does not align with Mexico’s, and this bill is an effort to provide deported students the opportunity to pursue education or find a job.
Berkeley Unified School District spokesperson Charles Burress said in an email that the district has not taken a position on the law and does not keep a record of students’ immigration statuses or the number of students who may have been deported.
AB 3022 is not the first bill of its kind in the state. Japanese Americans whose educations were interrupted when they were forced into internment camps during World War II can be retroactively granted high school diplomas. Similarly, Vietnam War, Korean War and World War II veterans who were enlisted or drafted into the armed forces before finishing high school can also be retroactively awarded diplomas.
Both Fletcher Gonzalez and Harrison said the law is a way to soften the blow of federal immigration policy. Harrison said the law will “help rectify harm that is being done by the federal government.”
AB 3022 passed in the state Assembly with a 75-1 vote and the Senate by a 35-1 vote. The bill was introduced in February 2018 and “went quickly through both houses and had bipartisan support,” Gonzalez Fletcher said.
“These are kids who are being ripped out of school against their will and then sent to countries where they have to restart their lives,” Gonzalez Fletcher said in a press release. “We can’t stop the federal government from enforcing asinine immigration policies but we can make the transition easier for California students who get deported their senior year.”