Leaders of California’s public college systems sent a letter to Donald Trump defending a program that allows undocumented students to stay in the country.
University of California President Janet Napolitano, California State University Chancellor Timothy White and California Community College Chancellor-designate Eloy Oakley asked the President-elect not to dismantle the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program.
Napolitano helped create DACA in 2012 when she served as President Barack Obama’s Secretary of Homeland Security. The program allows children who arrived in the United States before 2012 and their 16th birthdays, who have not been convicted of crimes and who have continued to pursue an education to avoid deportation. It also allows recipients to receive work permits and social security numbers.
Trump promised to eliminate DACA during the campaign and discussed the creation of a deportation force to remove the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the country. After his election, Trump revised his pledge to deport up to 3 million undocumented violent criminals, though experts say the country does not have that many undocumented criminals.
The university leaders wrote in the letter that DACA recipients are not a public safety threat and some never spoke the language of their native lands.
“These sons and daughters of undocumented immigrants are as American as any other child across the nation, in all but in the letter of the law,” they said in the letter.
Napolitano, White and Oakley added DACA recipients are constructive and contributing members of the community.
“They should be able to pursue their dream of higher education without fear of being arrested, deported or rounded up for just trying to learn,” they said.
About 700 undocumented students go to UCLA, many of whom are DACA recipients. Some have said they worry if Trump eliminates DACA, they could lose their right to work legally.
Napolitano announced she created a task force to protect undocumented students from Trump’s potential immigration policies at the November UC Regents meeting. She also said she would meet with undocumented student coordinators across the UCs.
Students and faculty urged the UC to establish sanctuary campuses at each UC location. Sanctuary campuses would operate like sanctuary cities — university law enforcement would not help detain or deport undocumented students or immigrants.
The university leaders said they looked forward to debating immigration reform with Trump in the future, but asked him to think of DACA recipients as he selects his new cabinet.
“On behalf of these Dreamers, we implore you to let them know they are valued members of our communities and that they will be allowed to continue to pursue the American dream,” they wrote.