The Ventura County Community College District will join California Community Colleges and other pro-immigrant organizations across the state for the 5th annual Undocumented Student Action Week, Oct. 18-22. Ventura County’s community colleges serve approximately 31,000 students, with nearly 54% identifying as Latinx; many of these students are the first in their family to attend college.
As Hispanic-Serving Institutions, our colleges remain committed to providing a safe and welcoming environment to all students from any country, regardless of their immigration status. VCCCD’s Board of Trustees adopted the resolution this spring Affirming the District’s Commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for our diverse student population. This resolution addresses the many needs of the District’s students, faculty and staff, so everyone can access opportunities and thrive.
Undocumented Student Action Week is a time to advocate and support our undocumented students, who often experience economic and social adversities due to their legal standing. Moorpark College, Oxnard College and Ventura College will help address these challenges by hosting in-person and virtual events that focus on advocacy, financial aid and other services, so undocumented students can pursue their right to an education.
Many of our students participate in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA), the immigration policy former President Barack Obama initiated in 2012 that temporarily offered eligible youth, otherwise known as “Dreamers,” a two-year deferment from deportation. Dreamers could also apply for a work permit, social security number and a driver’s license under DACA.
Earlier this year, a federal judge proclaimed DACA unlawful, stating President Obama lacked the authority to set the policy and ordered U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to stop approving new applications. The Biden Administration has appealed this decision, but for the estimated 70,000 undocumented students in our state, this represents an unsure and trying time.
Despite DACA’s precarious position, our colleges’ undocumented students can access campus-based resources year-round, connecting them with immigration advocacy organizations to educate them about their rights and the political changes that can impact their immigration status. Dreamers can also qualify for specific grants available through the California Nonresident Tuition Exemption (also referred to as AB 540) to help finance their education.
DACA recipients belong on our campuses and in our communities for a myriad of reasons. They bring a cultural wealth comprised of their unique knowledge, skills and strengths. They share their experiences with their fellow students and instructors, allowing those of us who work at and attend our colleges to better understand other customs and the wider world. Their diverse perspectives promote tolerance and respect and help spur innovation in and outside the classroom.
Undocumented Student Action Week follows Latinx Heritage Month (Sept. 15—Oct. 15), which celebrates the contributions of Latinx Americans with roots in the Caribbean, Central and South America, Mexico and Spain who have enriched our nation. Like those who bravely came to our country seeking new opportunities, Dreamers contribute to our country’s cultural fabric and the economic well-being of our community.
A report from the nonpartisan Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy finds that the 1.3 million youth enrolled in or eligible for DACA add an estimated $1.7 billion annually to state and local taxes. In California, they contribute more than $497 million each year. Repealing the program’s protections would decrease these taxes by more than $207 million yearly, showing that economic incentives exist for keeping the policy in place.
Beyond financial reasons, approximately 75% of U.S. adults approve granting permanent legal status to Dreamers who arrived in the country before their 16th birthday, according to a Pew Research Center poll taken last year. This indicates that many of our fellow citizens embrace the contributions DACA recipients bring to their communities.
The District and its colleges welcome Dreamers and their families to our community and understand the transformational impact a college degree or certificate has on the lives of DACA students. We invite our community members join us for this year’s Undocumented Student Action Week events and ask Congress to pass substantial legislation that allows Dreamers to pursue their educational goals and reach their highest potential.
Greg Gillespie is the chancellor of the Ventura County Community College District. For more information about the District and Undocumented Student Action Week, visit vcccd.edu/students/undocually.