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California university leaders vow to defend immigrants as Trump ends DACA

Roman Hernandez, a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program recipient, chants with supporters at City Hall in Los Angeles, California. Source: Reuters/Kyle Grillot.

Educational leaders from the  California’s higher education institutions are pushing back after the Trump administration announced it is scrapping the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a programme that shields immigrants who came to the US illegally as children – known as “dreamers” – from deportation.

Within minutes of the announcement, education leaders in California made clear their intentions to protect their vulnerable students, according to Los Angeles Times.

University of California (UC) president Janet Napolitano condemned the move to end the programme, and in a statement, said:

“The University of California will continue to stand with Dreamers and their supporters as we fight to keep the program alive.”

“This backward-thinking, far-reaching move threatens to separate families and derail the futures of some of this country’s brightest young minds, thousands of whom currently attend or have graduated from the University of California,” said Napolitano, who crafted the original DACA policy when she was US Homeland Security secretary in the Obama administration.

Eloy Ortiz Oakley, chancellor of the California Community Colleges system, called the scrapping a decision that “goes against American ideals and basic human decency” and vowed to advocate Congress to extend the protections.

California State University chancellor Timothy White assured immigrant students in a message that they will still be able to enroll, pay in-state tuition and receive state financial help despite the changes in federal policy.

People watch US Attorney General Sessions announcement on television address on the DACA program in Los Angeles. Source: Reuters/Monica Almeid

The announcement to end the programme was made on Tuesday by US attorney-general Jeff Session, who called the programme an unconstitutional overreach by the Obama administration. The US Congress has been given six months to come up with a replacement legislation.

Almost 800,000 young people are now in limbo as the programme now plunges into uncertainty and into the hands of a gridlocked Congress.

LA Times notes California is home to the largest concentration of “dreamer” students, making up about 214,000 as of last year. Some “dreamers” in this state report they get more support here compared to other states in the country

In response to the announcement, thousands gathered at a rally in downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday, holding signs with messages like “Protect immigrant families!” and “Let my students dream” and chanting “Immigrants are welcome here”.

UCLA graduate student Sean Tan, 24, who is a DACA recipient, said: “It’s important to show up, especially now that the Trump administration and other forces are threatening our livelihood.”

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