For approximately 1,200 Fresno State students, Tuesday morning was a long time coming. They heard an announcement from the White House about the future of the Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, after rumors swirled the program would be terminated.
DACA, an administrative order signed by former President Barack Obama in 2012, provided a two-year deportation deferment and the opportunity to apply for a work permit to eligible applicants, mostly young immigrants who came to the United States as young children.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced DACA would be phased out in about six months and asked Congress to find a legislative solution to immigration, Fresno State President Dr. Joseph Castro held a news conference in the Henry Madden Library shortly after the annoucement.
“I want [students] to know that we’re thinking of them. We’re with them, and we’re going to do everything we can to support them so that they can graduate and become leaders out in the Valley and beyond,” Castro said.
DACA recipients who currently have DACA will be allowed to use it until it expires, according to the announcement by Sessions.
Castro tweeted his support for students with DACA last Friday: “As President of Fresno State, I stand with & support each & every one of our talented 25,000 students, including our 1,000+ Dreamers.”
“My job as president is to help them succeed, so we’re now turning our attention to Congress and urging them to pass the Dream Act or some legislation that will provide a pathway for our students to succeed over the long term and to become part of the next generation of leaders right here in the Valley and beyond,” Castro said.
Castro said his administration will remain in “constant contact” with Congressional representatives to encourage passage of the Dream Act.
“There’s a tremendous outpouring of support for DACA students today,” he said. “I think, in general, if you look at the polls, there’s bipartisan support, both parties, to find a solution to this challenge. I’m cautiously optimistic that our Congress will act and put it into effect to support our students.”
DACA recipients are allowed to renew their work permits if they are set to expire before March 5, 2018, according to the Department of Homeland Security. But they must submit their renewal application by Oct. 5, 2017.
At the Speaker’s Platform, Students for Quality Education (SQE) hosted a rally for those who wanted to share their support of DACA.
Isaiahs Luna, a political science major and sophomore, took to the Speaker’s Platform with a sign in hand reading: ‘migration is beautiful.’
Many of Luna’s family members are DACA recipients and moved to the United States in search of work and education, he said. Tuesday’s announcement left him “feeling scared” for his friends and family.
Luna said he hopes others can realize how much DACA effects students have in society.
“I just hope [members of] Congress have an understanding heart that DACA students and DACA people aren’t criminals. They will be your future doctors. They will be your future teachers, your future lawyers, and I’m hoping they understand that,” Luna said.
Chad Brandon, a junior majoring in psychology, only learned about DACA Tuesday morning. But the chants made from the platform inspired him to show his support.
“I think more people need to step up and say that they believe those things too so there isn’t this quiet consent. I think me speaking out is a way of saying that I don’t consent to what’s going on. I don’t agree with a lot of what’s happening right now,” Brandon said.
After learning more about the program, Brandon hopes DACA can remain available to those who need it.
“All I know is I believe in education. I believe that immigrants have every right to be in this country just as much as I do. I strongly believe in educating everyone, and removing [DACA] would be a tragedy. I want DACA to stay,” Brandon said.
Senior Adolfo Romero Ramirez, communication major, said although he is upset over the announcement, he continues to be optimistic.
“I’ve always been an optimistic person so I just continue to live forward,” he said.
Romero Ramirez said he believes that sometimes it takes something good to fall apart for something even better to come together.
“Maybe this will force Congress to do something, like ‘Hey, we have to do something about the Dreamers,’” Romero Ramirez said.
He also wants Congress to act against the discontinuation of the administrative order.
When Romero Ramirez was a baby, he came to America with his family, he said .
“I understand the whole thoughts of people is that [we] came into this country illegally but… when I came here I didn’t know anything about what is legal and what is illegal,” he said.
Romero Ramirez said he hopes Congress and the president choose to give those affected a pathway to residency and citizenship.
“Just a chance, just give us a chance,” he said.
Romero Ramirez said the effort to get DACA conditions renewed every two years is an extensive process. The program requires recipients to have a clean criminal record.
“I think if you have just one DUI you’re out,” he said.
When Romero Ramirez went through his own application process, he said he was not worried about being denied.
“I’m in school I’m at least a 3.0 [GPA] student and I didn’t have anything to worry about,” he said.
He said the one thing that did stress him out was the presidential election last November.
He feared his DACA application would be revoked then.
His application was renewed before the continuation of DACA was in question.
Romero Ramirez was granted his DACA conditions until January 2019. He said his worry is for the people in the program with deferments expiring in the next few months.
“I wonder what’s going to happen to them,” he said.
Romero Ramirez will take action by remaining aware of rallies similar to the SQE rally and keeping up with his schooling.
“I’m going to continue my studies. I’ll keep looking forward and stay positive,” he said.