2017 has been a politically eventful year, chock-full of social justice movements pursuing social and legal progress. TIME magazine selects a person, event, or movement to feature based on who or what has had the most influence in the past year. In the spirit of reflecting upon the past 12 months, the Quaker Campus has chosen to spotlight the Dreamers, a group of young, undocumented Americans. The Dreamers also refers to DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipients. The Quaker Campus has chosen the Dreamers because the effects of immigration reform are felt nationwide, all the way down to our community here at Whittier College. Here are a few of the most influential events concerning the Dreamers from 2017:
Whittier College becomes a sanctuary school:
In March of 2017, the Board of Trustees issued a statement pledging unconditional support to all students, regardless of immigration status. The letter says, “We stand in solidarity with all of our students who seek sanctuary, as a reaffirmation of our commitment to the values upon which Whittier was founded.” The Board released this statement after a group of students — some Dreamers and some not — shared their fears about the nation’s political climate turning hostile towards immigrants. There was a petition circulated around campus that gained around 700 signatures inbetween the group’s presentation and the Board’s decision. The protections went into effect immediately, and is now referred to as the The Poet Student Sanctuary Protections Policy.
President Trump begins DACA rollbacks:
President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions called upon Congress to pass the DREAM act by March of 2018, or he would revisit DACA protections. Former President Barrack Obama established the DACA program to protect undocumented residents who were brought to the United States. While DACA deprioritizes people eligible to its protections, it does not provide a clear path to citizenship. President Trump said that there needed to be a legislative solution or he will begin to phase out the amnesty-first approach, making the 800,000 DACA recipients eligible for deportation. This poses a unique challenge, as Congress was not able to pass the DREAM Act under the Obama administration. The deprioritization of child immigrants has received bipartisan support in the past. President Trump said he was giving Congress the chance to pass immigration reform but it is unclear if he would sign the DREAM Act, even if it was passed through both houses of Congress. There was a strong response from many, outraged that the President would target a vulnerable group of young people who had placed so much faith in the government by applying for DACA. In order to qualify for protections, applicants had to give sensitive and personal information that would make it easier for them to be deported, should the current administration decide to rescind DACA and use the information provided against them.
California becomes a sanctuary state:
In October, California Governor Jerry Brown signed the California Values Act into law. The signing of the bill was timely, considering that Oct. 5 was the deadline for DACA application renewals. Many states and higher education institutions had already declared themselves ‘sanctuaries,’ meaning that they would not assist Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in the deportations of undocumented citizens. It is unclear how the state and federal government will work together moving forward. One of the potential repercussions from California becoming a sanctuary state is the federal government limiting the financial assistance the state will receive in the next Congressional budget passed. This law goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2018. It is difficult to say what legal and political battles lie ahead for the California Values Act, but currently it serves as a safety net for all undocumented citizens.
The Quaker Campus has reported extensively on immigration reform and the effect it will have on the college community. To read more about DACA, please visit thequakercampus.org.
Congress has until Mar. 5, 2018 to pass a clean DREAM Act, and protect the nearly 800,000 DACA recipients. Here are three ways you can help the Dreamers in 2018:
Call your elected representatives:
One of the most powerful political actions you can take is to call your members of Congress and tell them you want them to pass the DREAM Act. By voicing your support for this critical issue, you are reminding them that immigration reform is important to you and will matter for their reelection.
Donate to a pro-immigrant organization:
There are many organizations working to provide DACA recipients with the support they need. If you are able to, donate money or time to a worthy cause, such as National Immigration Law Center, Border Angels, Mi Familia Vota, or the Young Center For Immigrant Children’s Rights.
Know your rights:
Dealing with law authorities can be stressful and intimidating. Knowing your rights can protect you in potentially dangerous situations. You have the right to not say or sign anything during an interrogation without an attorney present.