Over the past week, immigration officials conducted several raids around the country resulting in the arrest of more than 700 undocumented immigrants, fueling concerns that undocumented students, including those at Sonoma State University, may be at risk of deportation.
Among the detained were at least two young immigrants who, under President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, were allowed to live and legally work in this country.
Immigration officials arrested Daniel Ramirez Medina, 23, in Seattle on Feb. 10, and Josue Romero, 19, in San Antonio, Texas on Feb. 16. Romero has since been released while Ramirez Medina remains in custody of immigration officials.
Both are recipients of DACA, Obama’s executive action that allows undocumented immigrants who arrived to this country as children to apply for a two-year work permit and get deferred action from deportation. In order to qualify, applicants must have a clean record and be enrolled in a higher learning institution or have graduated from high school.
DACA protects an estimated 728,000 or more young undocumented immigrants. But many participants in the program, including those at Sonoma State, have expressed concern about the future of the program under President Donald Trump who has pledged to crack down on the number of undocumented immigrants in the country.
Some are concerned that the personal information they filed when applying for the DACA program will now be used against them by officials from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The Obama administration promised DACA recipients that their personal information would not be released to immigration officials. However, in the light of last week’s arrests, the anxiety that DACA recipients may become targeted for deportation has increased.
Sonoma State is home to 148 undocumented students, many of whom are DACA recipients.
Last Wednesday, several Sonoma State STAR editors and reporters talked to California elected officials about the uncertainty undocumented students are facing.
“In this state we celebrate diversity. We don’t deport it. We don’t ban it. We don’t wall it off,” Senate majority leader Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, said to a group of newspaper executives Wednesday. “The state of California will not lift a single finger, nor spend a single cent to separate mothers from their children and children from their mothers.”
Many California cities, including San Francisco and Los Angeles, have declared themselves “sanctuary cities,” meaning federal immigration laws will not be supported by local police enforcement or funds.
Trump has threatened these cities, and the state of California, by saying he will withdraw federal funds if they uphold their sanctuary status. For California, this would mean losing billions of dollars that go to infrastructure and education.
“Withholding funds from California is illegal, unconstitutional and requires statutory action from congress,” De Leon told a California Newspaper Publishers Association conference. “If [House Speaker] Paul Ryan and [U.S. Senate majority leader] Mitch McConnell attempt to withhold funds from California, we will see them in court, let me be very clear about that.”
De Leon has also introduced Senate Bill 54 — the “sanctuary state bill”— which would prevent all local and state police agencies from cooperating with federal immigration officials to deport undocumented immigrants.
Sonoma State alumni and state Sen. Mike McGuire said he supports the legislation. “SB54 will not protect undocumented immigrants with felonies,” McGuire said.
“California has over 214,000 undocumented immigrants under DACA” he said. “That is more than any other state. Undocumented students can rest assure California State University, University of California, and California Community Colleges will not share any information with immigration officials,” he said.
On the other hand, state Senate Republican Leader Jean Fuller said that California’s relationship with Trump was an important priority for her party.
“If we continue the rhetoric we have had so far, we will come last,” Fuller said. “Let’s get along and get to work.”