DACA in the Foothill community: Student perspectives, fears, and dreams

“First I lost my mom, then I lost my dad…I cried myself to sleep. I was three years old when I was separated from my parents.” This quote from a Foothill student describing his family’s experience moving to America speaks to the great emotional turmoil and distress the topic of immigration can bring. After President Trump’s September 5th decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program enacted by Former President Obama, the future of immigrant children all across the country became immediately uncertain.

The program, established in 2012, allows children under 16 that were brought to the United States illegally deferred action from deportation and eligibility for a work permit for a period of 2 years. DREAMers, individuals who are enrolled in the program, must have clean criminal records and are able to re-enroll after the two-year permit expires. The Trump Administration stated that the policy was to be rescinded, but offered Congress six months to negotiate what to do with those already registered as DREAMers.

Foothill College has around 300 DREAMers, and a 15% international population. The decision to rescind DACA and approve funding for a Border Wall, a threat to the academic and personal future of students in the Foothill community, provoked both fear and empowerment.

In an interview, Juan, a psychology and childhood development double major, reflected, “I don’t know Mexico. I was 3 years old when I came here. I don’t know anything about their history. You give me an American citizenship test, I’ll do better than anyone that was born here.” After attending elementary, middle, and high school in the Bay Area, Juan knows himself as an American, raised the same alongside all of his American born friends.

Though the immigrant community has been heavily targeted by the Trump administration, hateful marches, and nationalist movements repeatedly throughout the last year, Juan remains hopeful for his future: “I’m going to stay on the same path. I’m going to keep going to school, keep staying engaged, keep learning. If I don’t have education, why did I come here? Why did they bring me here?”

As a leader at Foothill and in his communities at home, Juan hopes to inspire other DREAMers to stay empowered, not afraid. Though the threat of deportation and a radical change of life is imminent, he believes it is critical to stay positive and fight back against the decision.

Since the election, Juan has been speaking publicly on this and actively engaging in outreach and support network building. His advice to new DACA students questioning their decision to attend college is to “not let fear take over us and achieve what we want to achieve. My plan is not going to change. My plan is to get my AA, transfer out, get my bachelors, and hopefully things will calm down and get better, but I know I’ll be able to help people either way. The education I’m getting ensures that.”

I don’t know Mexico. I was 3 years old when I came here. I don’t know anything about their history. You give me an American citizenship test, I’ll do better than anyone that was born here.”

The Foothill community and administration stand united to support DREAMers and immigrants. New students, returning DACA enrollees, and the international community should know that Foothill is a safe and supportive campus for all. Foothill College President Thuy Nguyen issued the following statement:

“Foothill College is fiercely committed to supporting all students, including First-Gen, students with disabilities, international students, veterans, and undocumented students. For DACA students (affectionately known as “DREAMers” due to the DREAM Act), it is my dream that they can fulfill their dreams in a safe, nurturing environment. As a Vietnamese refugee at the age of 3, I understand what it means to only know America growing up.

The decision to end DACA is heartbreaking, but I believe in this beautiful country of ours: America will rise to the occasion and demonstrate its humanity and grace by passing permanent legislation. I, along with our district leadership, will be advocating for such legislation in Congress. In the meantime, I ask Foothill students to show love and support for your fellow classmates who may be afraid for themselves or their family members. I also hope our 300+ DREAMers at Foothill will remember the words of a great leader, César Chávez whose quote is etched on the window of our library: “You cannot un-educate the person who has learned to read.” DREAMers, keep learning. Foothill College stands with DREAMers.”

The last names of persons in this article have been excluded to protect their identities.

If you are an undocumented student in need of support or aid, contact the Family Engagement Institue at [email protected] or at their office in the Student Resource Center, Building 5400 Room 5420. The institute holds bi-weekly Know Your Rights trainings and assists Foothill in being a “Safe Campus” for all students, regardless of status.

Find more information about rights for DACA recipients here.