More than 500 undocumented students accompanied by their advocates got together at California State University, Sacramento to discuss how they could avoid deportation under Donald Trump’s government.
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, an undocumented Filipino activist himself, was among the speakers. The speakers and students called for all undocumented students to enroll in courses and get support from their peers at Sacramento State, which established one of California’s first Dreamer Resource Centers to help them get everything from scholarships and financial aid to legal advice.
“I am astounded by the resilience of these students and their willingness to come out,” said Resource Center program director Norma Mendoza, 27, herself a beneficiary of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program started by President Barack Obama allowing undocumented students without criminal records to remain in the country with work permits. “They’ve been in the reactive mode, now they need to organize and start to plan. They have some weight. They have two months.”
“Many folks were reluctant to apply. They said, ‘The government doesn’t know I’m here,’ and the government said ‘don’t worry,’” Mendoza said. “What’s to stop immigration from going after their files and coming to your home?”
Some members of Congress also called on President Obama to use pardons to try to keep DACA recipients from being deported, a strategy whose effectiveness legal experts debate.
However, according to the Los Angeles Times, the Obama administration may not be eager to do so as the White House does not believe it would confer legal status on the recipients.
If that may be the case, CEO of Alianza, a Sacramento-based organization dedicated to immigration reform and the protection of undocumented students, Rhonda Rios Kravitz has a rather radical opinion.
He holds that in the absence of a pardon, universities need to consider destroying all files of DACA recipients “so they cannot be found.”
Martha Ancajas, 20, a Sacramento State student from the Philippines, said she and other students don’t know what to expect.
“I’m really afraid — I don’t know if I’m going to be here after Jan. 20,” she said. “We don’t know if sanctuary cities such as San Francisco can protect us. We need to call our congresspeople and let them know we are scared.”
Donald Trump promised on several occasions during his election campaign that he will deport all 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the country.
The fact that the task would not only be a financial drain, but deplete the private sector output by billions (anywhere from $381.5 billion to $623.2 billion) either means little to him or hasn’t sunk in yet.
Many students are also pressuring their university officials to promise that they will create “sanctuary campuses” and not assist federal immigration authorities when deportation raids occur. If a university becomes a sanctuary campus, then it is less likely to report the immigration statuses of its students and employees and will offer other forms of support to undocumented migrants as well.