Dream still alive for students

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Bianca Duenas presenting in forum at Delta College on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program and the Dream Act for DACA students. PHOTO BY MICHAEL WEBER

“I had goals to transfer to a higher end four-year college to pursue my career in nursing. It’s what I always planned to do, but now it seems that my future lies in the hands of Trump. I have to take a new route and rearrange my future,” said Veronica Vargas.

Now Vargas is only one of hundreds of Delta College students feeling they have to fast-track a career path to guarantee a degree, before President Donald J. Trump takes any other affirmative actions against the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

On Sept. 5, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, announced the end of DACA.

The news sent many students into panic in regards to their immigration status.

As of Jan. 9, a Federal court ruled that while lawsuits are pending, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is obligated to accept DACA renewal applications.

“Even though we can renew our status, I still am planning to go straight into a certification school for nursing because this year my DACA expires, and I don’t know how things can change from now to then. It pressures me because I didn’t want to just get certified, but now I have to rearrange my future,” Vargas said.

On Jan. 27, Delta held the Delta Dream Conference, where guest speakers and faculty reassured not only students but the outside community that Delta College would stand by DACA students on all immigration issues.

Speaker Bianca Duenas, Immigration Attorney for California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, told the audience she would be one of many helping anyone in need, student or community member.

“Before there used to be a challenge of paying for education for those who were undocumented. If you were someone who was not born in the U.S you were being forced to pay out of state tuition at colleges even though you lived here for years. Now, AB 50 California law allows students who live in California, attended middle school here, as well as other requirements to pay in state tuition for college,” said Duenas.

Duenas said now the California Dream Act is in place and it is similar to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) but at the state level.

This means immigrant students can receive grants and loans to help pay for school and it can’t be taken away by Trump since it is state funded.

“It’s important for students to understand the difference between a loan and a grant. A grant is money that you don’t have to give back, whereas loans you will be paying back. The state of California will fight to the end to protect undocumented people. Yes, federal law does trump state law, but our state is firm in standing behind immigrants,” said Duenas.

Duenas offered more information regarding rights for the undocumented and law updates that have occurred to help those in need.

A key emphasis of the presentation was what occurs off campus when students and the community don’t have anyone around to help.

Many Delta students are children of illegal parents which causes stress about what will happen to their parents while they are at school.
“There’s always that feeling that you’ll come home and they aren’t there. What is going to happen to my siblings and me then?” said Gloria Alonso, a Delta student.

Duenas told the audience in case of an emergency it is important for parents to fill out the Care Giver Authorization Affidavit that allows a blood relative, who is a citizen, to take care of their children if deportation should occur.

A notarized letter explaining what parents would like for the children should be written and kept close, as well in order to ensure any children left behind can be taken care of.

“I can use all this information Delta gives us to help my parents know what to do in our situation and get insight to know my rights and laws,” said Vargas.

For legal advice Duenas will be on campus twice a month to give tips and advice.

Services are free and serve the entire Central Valley.

“College is possible regardless of your immigration status,” said Duenas.