On Oct. 12, the Solana Beach School District (SBSD) adopted a resolution calling on Congress to continue the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and provide DACA recipients with a pathway to permanent residence and eventually U.S. citizenship.
“Our board of education believes that each student deserves to be treated with respect and as a valuable human being — with hopes, dreams, aspirations, and goals,” read the resolution. “Each DACA recipient should be allowed to fulfill those dreams.”
“I think it shows that our district embraces the diversity of our students and families and that our schools are a safe and supportive place for students to learn,” SBSD Superintendent Terry Decker said of the resolution which passed unanimously.
At the meeting, there were five speakers in favor of the board taking action, including parents, board members from the La Colonia de Eden Gardens Foundation and a representative from the ACLU San Diego.
“Every child in America has a right to an education. We all want children to be successful in school and in order to do so, they must feel confident in their abilities.When a child has to hide in the shadows of their community for fear of being deported, or not attend a school field trip because it may involve crossing a Border Patrol checkpoint, then their chances of being successful in school are much less in their favor,” said Lisa Montes, vice president of the La Colonia Eden Gardens Foundation. “The Solana Beach School District needs to be commended for standing up for DACA children by putting this DACA resolution on the agenda and unanimously voting yes on it. I am now even prouder to have been educated in Solana Beach schools.”
Former President Barack Obama implemented the DACA program in 2012. The program offered work authorization and a renewable two-year reprieve from deportation to unauthorized immigrants who were brought to the United States as children and met specific eligibility requirements.
According to the Pew Research Center, there are 222,795 DACA recipients in California. DACA recipients must have been brought to the United States before they were 16 years old; have maintained continuous residence since 2007 and must be attending school; have earned a high school diploma or equivalent, or have been honorably discharged from military service; and have not been convicted of a felony or three or more misdemeanors. DACA applicants, or “DREAMers,” must pay nearly $500 to apply and receive a background check and fingerprinting.
According to the Migration Policy Institute, one-third of all DACA recipients are enrolled in high school, one-fifth enrolled in college and one-fourth are enrolled in college and working at the same time.
On Sept. 5, United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions, speaking on behalf of President Trump, announced that without action by Congress to approve legislation to formally create or replace the DACA program, the current program would cease to exist within six months or by March 2018.
As stated in the board’s resolution, the announcement reportedly caused “panic and distress” in the DACA-eligible community and for many undocumented students and families throughout California. Some undocumented students were even discouraged from attending school.
SBSD board member Vicki King was responsible for bringing the resolution before the board. She said she hadn’t heard of the fear and distress occurring within the Solana Beach district but she wanted to get in front of it.
“When I heard that this had happened, it was a call to action for me,” King said. “Every student should come to school without fear and with faith in our schools. It was a great opportunity for our district to say how much we embrace diversity. I believe as a school board member that diversity makes a richer learning environment.”
In the Solana Beach School District, students come from 46 different countries and speak more than 36 different languages, Decker said. Thirty-percent of students come from a home where a language other than English is spoken.
Per the resolution, there are no fewer than four separate bills pending in Congress to address the DACA program, including the bipartisan “DREAM Act,” sponsored by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Richard Durbin (D-IL) to expand eligibility for conditional residency to 1.8 million immigrants, including all DACA recipients, who entered the United States before the age of 18 and who have been in the country longer than four years.
The Republican-sponsored “Recognizing America’s Children Act,” would provide conditional residency for immigrants who arrived in this country before the age of 16 and who have been in the country for five years.
“It is crucial that the Solana Beach School District make a strong statement and push for legislation without concessions for a border wall or other unnecessary border enhancements,” said Edward Sifuentes, senior communications strategist for the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties. “DACA recipients were brought into the U.S. as children and the United States is the only country they know. California is their home. Solana Beach is their home. We cannot sit back and allow this administration to rip them away from their home, from the life they’ve already built here. On behalf of the ACLU, we want to thank the Solana Beach School District board for its support of this resolution and for standing with our DACA recipients.”
In King’s mind, the resolution was a way that their “small little coastal Southern California school district” could take action and send an important message to Congress and the President. King said she was happy that her follow board members unanimously supported her efforts.
“We just confirmed what I always thought to be true about the Solana Beach School District, that we embrace every student and all cultures that come to our schools,” said King, encouraging others to take action and contact their representatives to make their opinions known on this issue.