Rep. Norma Torres came to campus to hear the concerns of the university’s undocumented students, but she also delivered a message to those facing a renewed possibility of deportation under the Trump administration.
She plans to continue to fight for them.
“We need you here in California,” she said. “If we are going to continue to be a global leader, we need your talents.”
The university-hosted a forum Feb. 22 on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, more commonly known as DACA, as the March 5 deadline loomed for Congress to pass legislation to protect those affected from deportation. Mike Manolo-Pedro, coordinator of Undocumented Student Services moderated the discussion. Students from Chaffey College and the University of LaVerne also participated.
DACA was established in 2012 to shield participants who entered the United States as minors from deportation. DACA status is renewable and lasts two years at a time. The Trump administration announced last September that it planned to end the program.
Torres (D-Ontario) shared her own story of immigrating to America when she was 5 years old, to live with a paternal uncle she didn’t know after her mother became ill and died.
“In the early 70s, it was a very different time,” she said. “Immigrants were more welcomed, and there was a process I could go through that didn’t take 40 years to gain legal status.”
Torres said she and other legislators are fighting for a bill that includes a pathway to citizenship and encouraged students to reapply for DACA, even though the future of the program seems uncertain.
“We have to face off on this issue,” she said. “We have the American public that is standing with us.”
The forum also provided an opportunity for students to share their personal stories.
One student, a history major, said he was concerned about military veterans who have fought for the United States, but are being deported to Tijuana, Mexico because they are undocumented.
Another student studying applied mathematics shared how she felt like an outsider after finding out in high school that she is undocumented. She talked about how she was accepted into a research program on campus but had to resign due to the stress of balancing school and family obligations after her father was injured in an accident. The Bronco Resource Dreamers Center on campus has given her some hope that she can continue pursuing her goals, but the struggle is difficult, she said.
Torres urged her to keep moving forward.
“Don’t look at your experience as failure,” she said. “You hit a speed hump. It might take you longer, but don’t look at this as having failed.”
Torres also was asked about several proposed immigration bills including Rep. Pete Aguilar’s USA Act of 2018.
She said the bill could likely pass in the House, but that she and others will continue to press for the best legislation possible. She encouraged the students to reach out to members of Congress and to continue to mobilize their communities.
University President Soraya M. Coley said that students have reached out to her, other administrators, faculty and staff and to express their concerns about the uncertainty of their futures.
She urged students to continue to use their voices.
“We as a university and the CSU system stand in solidarity with you and support your dreams for a brighter future,” Coley said. “You are valuable and valued members of our university community, and you have many allies here.”