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Parham Discusses Post-Election Fate of DACA, Undocumented Students

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UC Irvine’s Vice Chancellor, Thomas A. Parham, sent a campuswide email last Tuesday, Nov. 22 calling for increased solidarity with undocumented students in the wake of Donald J. Trump’s presidential election. Parham encouraged students to report hate crimes and assured them that UC Irvine’s campus, as well as the University of California system, is working to protect over 3,000 undocumented UC students and remains committed to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

DACA, a program implemented by President Obama in 2012, grants renewable work permits and exemptions from deportation to people who immigrated to America prior to their 16th birthdays and before 2010. The program was intended to prevent the deportation of low-risk, non-criminal undocumented immigrants who arrived in America as children; DACA does not provide a path to citizenship. However, it allows recipients to hold Social Security cards, driver licenses and to travel abroad for educational purposes.

Of approximately 3,000 undocumented UC students and 400 undocumented UCI students, most are direct recipients of DACA and are among more than 740,000 such DACA youths nationwide. President-elect Trump opposes DACA, calling it “one of the most unconstitutional actions ever undertaken by a president,” and has promised to repeal the program upon taking office in January 2017.

In the wake of Trump’s election, undocumented students nationwide — particularly in California, which houses one quarter of the nation’s undocumented population — are facing uncertainty in regards to their legal status and protections if DACA is repealed. Students at UCI and other UC campuses have raised concerns over whether undocumented students currently studying abroad will be able to return to America once Trump takes office, and whether UC campuses should be designated “sanctuary campuses” dedicated to the legal, financial and emotional well-beings of undocumented students.

In his letter to the campus, Parham urged students who have witnessed or been victims of hate crimes to report them to campus authorities, and to seek resources including the Undocumented Legal Services Center, Cross-Cultural Center and Counseling Center. Further, in regards to undocumented students specifically, Parham acknowledged the “uncertainty and fear over possible changes to federal immigration policies that may directly affect them and … their families as well as the University as a whole.”

“[UC Regents] President [Janet] Napolitano has convened a working group to develop the best and most effective responses by UC to possible changes to federal immigration policies under the incoming administration,” said Parham. “The unequivocal goal of these efforts is to protect all members of our community and ensure their continued success at the University.”

Parham further stated that UCI’s commitment to DACA remains “clear and unchanged.”

“We will maintain a safe and welcoming environment for learning, working and living, regardless of immigration status or demographic characteristics,” said Parham. “While it is too soon to speculate on any potential changes in national policy, we will remain steadfast in our support of our students and their right to privacy.”

Parham’s statement follows a UC-wide statement issued by President Napolitano and signed by all 10 UC chancellors the day after the Nov. 8 election. In the statement, Napolitano similarly reaffirmed the University’s commitment to diversity, and “[urged] students, faculty, staff and all others associated with the University to do so as well.”

“The University of California is proud of being a diverse and welcoming place for students, faculty and staff with a wide range of backgrounds, experiences and perspectives,” wrote Napolitano.  “Diversity is central to our mission.  We remain absolutely committed to supporting all members of our community and adhering to UC’s Principles Against Intolerance.”

Parham’s statement, following Napolitano’s, is the first from the office of UCI’s Chancellor or Vice Chancellor to directly address the post-election status of UCI’s undocumented community. In the weeks since the election, students and faculty have urged UCI administration to take a dedicated stance against president-elect Trump’s promises of mass deportations.

As of last Wednesday, Nov. 23, an online Google petition for UCI to become a sanctuary campus garnered 1,068 signatures from UCI faculty, students, staff and alumni. The petition, addressed to members of the Academic Senate, Chancellor Gillman, and Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Enrique Lavernia, urges UCI administration to take “concrete actions” to designate UCI a sanctuary campus.

These actions include “reaffirming the University’s policy to not cooperate with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement [ICE] authorities regarding deportations or immigration raids,” “providing and expanding legal services for undocumented students, staff, workers and their families” and “providing strictly confidential counseling services for undocumented students, DACA recipients, staff, workers and their families regarding their situation.”

The campus-wide petition acknowledges other actions, like reaffirming UCI’s commitment to inclusivity, which Parham addressed in his letter. However, petitioners urge further action on behalf of undocumented UCI students.

“We, the undersigned, believe the Trump administration’s proposed immigration policies pose a grave threat to UCI’s mission of equity, diversity and inclusion,” the petition read. “Given these dire circumstances, we urge continued conversation and concrete action from the Academic Senate and UCI administration.”

UCI’s DREAMers Resource Center is currently working with UCI’s School of Law to ensure that undocumented students studying abroad are able to return home, and to mitigate effects of the potential loss of work visas on undocumented students employed by the campus. Further, the DREAMer Resource Center is hoping to expand access to counseling services and financial aid assistance for undocumented students at UCI.