Dream High, Start Lo(Cal)

Zhanserik Temirtashev, Political Writer

Immigration policy doesn’t exist in a vacuum.

2001 was a monumental year for immigration rights, marked by the passing of California Assembly Bill 540. The aforementioned bill, otherwise known as AB540, waived non-resident tuition fees and authorized eligible undocumented high school students to receive state financial aid.

Since its inception, the program has been challenged, most infamously during the Martinez v. Regent of the University of California by the Federation of American Immigration Reform (FAIR) based on the bill’s incompatibility with federal law.

Ultimately, the California Supreme Court decided to uphold the bill’s effect, as up to 70% of all program participants are lawful residents of the state or are U.S. citizens, and hence there is no breach of Section 505, which outlines that aliens are not eligible for state aid.

Inclusive immigration policy evolved beyond state legislation in 2012 under the Obama administration with the passage of the DACA program, allowing young immigrants to receive work permits and ensuring protection against deportation. Other proposed legislation included Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), which sought to expand upon the DACA platform to accommodate foreign-born parents of DACA recipients in 2014.

The presidential execution action would not last as states filed lawsuits against in the District Court of Southern District of Texas, efforts spearheaded by Judge Andrew Hanen, who filed a preliminary injunction in 2016. In 2017, the Trump administration rescinded the order.

Judge Hanen ruled that the Obama-era program was unlawful, violating the Administrative Procedure Act on July 15. While the Biden administration and Congress are expected to appeal through legislative remedy, the ultimate decision is decidedly in the hands of the Supreme Court.

Hanen’s decision left 80,000 formerly eligible candidates for DACA in limbo, as the Department of Homeland Security can no longer process DACA applications.

As a result of pandemic disruptions, FAFSA applications in California shrunk by three points since 2019, while DREAM Act applications plummeted by 16 points in the same period, a PPIC study found. Evidently, immigrant communities are most vulnerable to financial and health insecurity. In lieu of Judge Hanen’s most recent injunction, prospects of DACA recipients and AB540 students are highly uncertain as college enrollment drops.

“While some may be hopeful about the DREAM Act, it gives me [tremendous] anxiety,” Ixtanyolha Galicia said, a key member of the Dreamers Club at CSUEB. Galicia describes her view as somewhat jaded by the politicization of DREAMers, given that the issue was “five votes away in 2012.”

Galicia believes that the passage of the DREAM Act stands to benefit both the immigrant community and the state as a whole. “[DREAMers] will be to start companies, hire employees, pay taxes, [which will] bring back a lot of money into the state. People living in the shadows will have a sense of relief.”

Galicia is “DACAmented” and an AB540 student registered as DACA in 2013 at the age of 22. She recalls her experience as exhausting and one of constant vigilance, stating to “always have this fear whenever I went to do my biometrics. One ICE car [in the neighborhood] immediately puts everyone on edge.”

“As for mass migration, it’s already happening,” Galicia stated, addressing the opponents of DACA who fear the consequences, “They are coming because they have a scary life out there because of what the US does. It will help people that are already here.” In response to the commonly cited fear of decreased opportunities and lost jobs by DACA detractors, “We pulled ourselves by our bootstraps, and you should do the same,” said Galicia.

As a departure from the partisanship surrounding the DACA and the DREAMer debate, Galicia believes that both political parties are mishandling the issue. “DREAMers are a chess piece on the board, … [and] I feel like a political gambit all the time,” Galicia revealed. In her view, Democrats place DACA and DREAMers on a pedestal, while inadvertently demoralizing DACA parents. Republicans, Galicia speculates, are afraid because of election outcomes, while fueled by former President Trump’s hostile rhetoric. Galicia proposes to extend beyond politics and adopt an empathetic approach to better understand DREAMers: “Just listen. You don’t have to see us past your biases, you don’t have to agree with us.”

To bring awareness and help her community, Galicia plays a key role within the Dreamer’s Club at CSUEB. “When we came into the East Bay, we felt like no one within the administrative system could answer our questions, guide us through our system,” Galicia explained, passionate about helping fellow DACA and DREAMers navigate through the difficulties at East Bay by providing a safe space and offering mental health services.

One of her goals is to expand upon the demographics and the inclusivity of the club, as DACA recipients and DREAMers aren’t restricted to the Latino community. “We see you, we recognize you, come join us.”

If you are interested in helping or joining the Dreamer’s Club, please contact the club email: [email protected].