Merced-area faculty and administrators have tried to ease the fears of undocumented students in recent weeks amid discussions about changes to immigration policies that could be a reality under a new presidential administration.
Hundreds of faculty from across the University of California system signed a “faculty statement” that expressed “strong and unwavering support for Dream Scholars and students from mixed immigration status families on our campuses.”
“Dream Scholars” are students attending college under the Dream Act, which allows undocumented students to tap scholarships and financial aid. It can also refer to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals students, a federal policy that allows those who came to the U.S. as children to be allowed to attend college here.
Stoking the fears of many students were comments made by now-President-elect Donald Trump, who has said he would deport millions of undocumented immigrants and end DACA, as well as set up a registry for immigrants from predominantly Muslim countries.
As a university, our mission is to educate whatever students we have. Our mission is not to police students.
Tanya Golash-Boza, a sociology professor at UC Merced
The faculty statement and campus-specific petitions began pushing for the protection of undocumented students in mid-November, according to Tanya Golash-Boza, a sociology professor at UC Merced.
She and dozens of UC Merced professors signed the statement. “As a university, our mission is to educate whatever students we have,” she told the Sun-Star on Thursday. “Our mission is not to police students.”
Beyond that, she said, the university’s police force should concentrate on protecting students and faculty, and students should be able to report crimes without fear of deportation.
Weeks after the statement began circulating, UC President Janet Napolitano said the system’s 10 campuses will refuse to turn over confidential student records without court orders or cooperate with any federal effort to create a national registry based on race, religion or national origin.
Golash-Boza said Napolitano’s statements delivered on many of the demands from faculty, but a few more technical requests remain up in the air.
It’s scary how he said he’s going to build a wall and send everybody back.
Claudia Farias, 21, a UC Merced student
The faculty statement also goes on to ask professors to pledge to maintain safe spaces for other marginalized groups that may feel they could be targets of hate or discrimination.
The thought of losing resident status or having a parent deported can be added stress to students. “It’s scary how he said he’s going to build a wall and send everybody back,” Claudia Farias told the Sun-Star on Tuesday. “I have two-year amnesty because of DACA, but my parents don’t have anything.”
The 21-year-old psychology major from the Sonoma Valley said she came to the U.S. from Mexico when she was 4 years old.
Golash-Boza, whose research involves immigration, noted that Dream Scholars often see themselves as Californians.
“As far as their memory goes back, they’ve always lived in California,” she said. “It’s very scary to them – any sort of threat that they may be kicked out of California and sent back to their country of origin, which they know very little about.”
460The number of undocumented students at UC Merced
The UC system has not designated any sanctuary campuses, according to UC Merced spokesman James Leonard. “We support the UC system’s commitment to vigorously protect the privacy and civil rights of the undocumented members of our campus community, and we will embody that commitment on our campus,” he said.
At Merced’s other college campus, Merced College interim President Susan Walsh sent a message by email to all students and faculty in November, assuring them “Merced College is committed to being and remaining a welcoming environment for all students, including undocumented students.”
“To this end, please be assured that your student information is secure and protected by law,” she wrote in the email. “Merced College will not initiate any action that will impact support services or access to classes for our students.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.