Recognizing the work Dreamers do in local schools and in the community, the district Board of Trustees on Thursday unanimously approved a resolution supporting students, teachers and staff living in Del Norte County under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
The Del Norte County Unified School District’s resolution called on California members of Congress to work with the Trump Administration to enact legislation that would continue the DACA program and provide recipients with a pathway to legal residency and U.S. citizenship.
The resolution also called for providing a copies to Del Norte County’s congressional representative as well as Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris.
“The intent of this is not to promote additional programs. The intent of this is not to politicize our students and our kids and our families,” DNCUSD Superintendent Jeff Harris said. “It’s for us to be able to show support for our students and our staff who entered a program that was established under executive order. Who have followed the program guidelines. They have availed themselves of education. They have been contributing members of our society. They are going through higher education. They are moving into positions of service within our county. I wanted to bring this to the board to recognize that.”
DACA protects from deportation individuals who were brought into the U.S. when they were children. The program also provides work permits. About 800,000 DACA recipients live in the U.S.
To be eligible for DACA, individuals need to have arrived in the U.S. before they were 16, have lived here since June 2007 and not be older than 30 in 2012. A DACA recipient can’t have a criminal record; they must also provide a copy of their birth certificate, evidence of living in the U.S. and fingerprinting and other biometric analyses to stay in the country.
While they applauded the school district for supporting DACA recipients, many members of the public asked education officials not to forget other undocumented immigrants living in Del Norte County who are ineligible for DACA.
Cynthia Barcelo, immigration rights leader for True North Organizing Network, pointed out the parents, siblings, grandparents, cousins, neighbors and best friends of Del Norte students who don’t qualify for DACA fear they may be taken away from their families. The fear that they will be taken away from their families make some undocumented immigrants physically and mentally ill, she said.
“We worry that DACA immigrants will be supported at the expense of undocumented immigrants who are just as worthy as any human being of dignity and respect,” Barcelo said. “On behalf of the members of my community who feel frightened and are hiding in the shadows, I plead that you take a similar stand for them as well. They need elected leaders like you to stand with them.”
Felice Pace, a member of the Klamath Local Organizing Committee, which is affiliated with True North, noted many undocumented workers in Del Norte County do jobs that are difficult and dangerous and are poorly paid.
“It is not that Americans don’t want to do those jobs,” he said. “It’s just that we’re not willing to work that hard for that little amount of money. I would hope that knowing those realities, that you would support all of the people that are part of our community and happen to be undocumented.”
Kevin Hendrick, chairman of the Del Norte County Democratic Party, echoed the school district’s sentiments, noting there are 788,000 Dreamers in the U.S. and 222,000 in California. At a meeting on Sept. 11, the Del Norte County Democrat Central Committee unanimously voted to provide resources and “take whatever actions that we can” to support Dreamers in Del Norte County, Hendrick said.
Hendrick and school board Trustee Don McArthur also encouraged the board to forward the resolution to the Crescent City Council and the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors for their consideration.
Harris said he would forward the resolution to Interim City Manager Michael Young and County Administrative Officer Jay Sarina.
Harris also reminded the board that under California law, DNCUSD is required to provide a “free and appropriate public education” for all students. The school district must also abide by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which prohibits education officials from providing student information to outside agencies.
“Our schools are safe,” he said.
Trustee Angela Greenough commended the resolution’s politically neutral nature, saying any contractual agreement made between the Dreamers and the government should be followed regardless of who is in the White House.
“I’m grateful for this resolution (that it) acknowledges the staff and students who have participated in (DACA),” she said.
Frank Magarino, elected to the board in 2016, said having been brought to the U.S. from Cuba when he was 7 years old, he understands the struggles the Dreamers and other immigrants are experiencing.
“My parents were fleeing Cuba from the Castro regime,” he said. “I couldn’t speak any English. I went through all the struggles that the DACA kids were going through. I really empathize with all this. Unfortunately our government hasn’t gotten their act together to create a path that is fair and just for everybody.”
Reach Jessica Cejnar at firstname.lastname@example.org .