SRJC DACA students can rest easy for now


SRJC community members of all ages gather to remember Andy Lopez and also to protest President Donald Trump’s threat to repeal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Jesus Valencia and Brandon McCapes

The decision to phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program from the White House on Sept. 5 has sparked numerous reactions from the student body and local community in Santa Rosa.

On Sept. 1, Dr. Frank Chong, president and superintendent of Santa Rosa Junior College, released a letter to all students reaffirming the school administration’s efforts to keep protecting undocumented students.

“We will be vigilant in maintaining educational opportunities for all of our students and all of our communities,” Chong said.

Eduardo Osorio Juarez, 22, is a Latin American studies major at SRJC and current DACA recipient that wonders “what’s the next step the institution will take to support the undocumented community?”

The Extended Opportunity and Programs and Resources office (EOPS) at the SRJC’s Bertolini Student Center offers assistance to any disadvantaged, low-income or undocumented students on campus. Program coordinator Rafael Vasquez believes that DACA supporters need to look into the deeper issue.

“Stop focusing on DACA and start focusing on everyone who is here without status because we are economic and political refugees and we must change the dialogue to reflect this,” Vasquez said. “What do we demand? Immigration reform. When do we want it? Now!”

On Sept. 23, Vasquez along with volunteer lawyers from Sonoma County Legal Aid, and others are hosting a free immigration clinic at SRJC’s Southwest Santa Rosa Center from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Donations are welcome and will go towards providing scholarships for local students. Vasquez also emphasized the power of social media, and invited all students, undocumented or otherwise, to follow his Facebook page “DACA Sonoma County” for upcoming workshops and events.

“We fail to see that DACA is not a solution but a piecemeal that doesn’t offer permanent status to anyone living as undocumented in the US,” Vasquez said. “The solution is and always has been immigration reform for all 11 million or so undocumented individuals.”

Recent protests in Santa Rosa leading up to the Sept. 5 announcement reflected the anxiety and anger over the recent policy change from our nation’s capital.

Enrique Yarce, 22, a current DACA recipient, social activist and former SRJC student believes that DACA could help the national conversation if reported correctly. “I think it would help more if people would stop believing things that aren’t real,” Yarce said. “I recently read a conservative article about how DACA is amnesty. It’s not amnesty at all.”

Sonoma County Republican Party Chairperson Edelweiss Geary sees Obama’s drafting of DACA as unlawful and believes he overstepped executive authority by creating law, which is the responsibility of the Congress. While Geary believes that the mass deportation of undocumented immigrants, including DACA recipients, is probably not practical or desired, she thinks the federal government needs to pass effective immigration reform through the Legislature.

“These things should be done legislatively. Congress should be acting and we need to determine and enforce immigration policy,” Geary said.

The Obama Administration enacted the policy in June 2012 and 800,000 people nationwide benefited from it, about 480 of which are enrolled at SRJC.

“I criticize my country because I love it, because I want it to be better,” Yarce said.

Yarce also shared his support for other undocumented students who may feel unsure about what exactly to do and suggests finding support through various social media groups that educate and inform undocumented students on their options.