Los Rios Community College District vows to protect undocumented students

Cosumnes River College counselor Estella Hoskins, left, works with a student on her fall schedule of classes, Aug. 11, 2003.
Cosumnes River College counselor Estella Hoskins, left, works with a student on her fall schedule of classes, Aug. 11, 2003. Sacramento Bee File Photo

Los Rios Community College District trustees voted unanimously last week to protect the rights of undocumented immigrant students, the latest such move by a California school system since President-elect Donald Trump was elected in November.

Under the resolution, the district will not help build a federal registry unless required by law, nor will it disclose private student information unless compelled by legal action. Los Rios police will not be allowed to detain, question or arrest anyone based on their immigration status.

Ruth Scribner, president of the Los Rios board, said the board’s 7-0 vote reaffirms the district’s values and ensures that everyone understands the district’s commitment to stand behind undocumented students. Los Rios serves about 75,000 students across the Sacramento region.

Created in 2012 under President Barack Obama, the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program allows undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children to attend college without threat of deportation as long as they do not have a felony conviction. They can obtain two-year deferments from deportation.

Trump vowed during his presidential campaign to eliminate the DACA program.

“Our commitment is certainly to do everything within our legal authority to protect our students … and their ability to complete their educations,” Scribner said.

On Tuesday, the board of governors for the California Community Colleges system is poised to approve its own resolution declaring all 113 of its community colleges safe for students, regardless of their immigration status.

“Many of our students have come out of the shadows and participated in a program that allows them to stay in the country and continue their educations,” said Paul Feist, vice chancellor for California Community Colleges, in an email. “This is a formal declaration of the governing board in support of continuing this program and notice that we will advocate tirelessly to protect all of our students.”

The resolution will have no binding authority on individual campuses. But Feist said many districts are eager to go on record, and the board of governors can set an example for those districts.

In November, University of California President Janet Napolitano, California State University Chancellor Timothy White and Eloy Ortiz Oakley, then incoming chancellor of California Community Colleges, signed a letter to Trump stating that DACA students “should be able to pursue their dream of higher education without fear of being arrested, deported or rounded up for just trying to learn.”

In a related move in December, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson urged educators serving about 6.2 million students in California to declare K-12 schools as safe havens against deportation. Torlakson cited the Sacramento City Unified School District as an example.

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