Prior to November’s election, Elizabeth Hernandez didn’t hear Columbia Basin College students talk about deportation.
Now, roughly four months into Donald Trump’s presidency, it’s a common conversation.
Kristy Henscheid, an associate professor in biology, along with Hernandez, hope a recent resolution from the college’s faculty senate will help ease the fears of students involved in the the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, referred to as DACA.
The resolution says the college will not ask nor surrender information regarding students’ immigration or citizenship status. It also endorses a call by the state’s community college presidents to continue DACA, and supports college policies that protect the privacy of students’ information.
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A 2012 presidential executive order allows undocumented immigrants that entered the country as children to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation, along with eligibility for a work permit.
DACA students may receive state financial aid, but aren’t allowed to request federal financial aid.
The program is in a precarious position — Trump promised on the campaign trail to end it. It’s unclear whether he intends to follow through with the threat.
I had two professors call me and say I have students that don’t want to go to class. They’re making alternative plans and saying, ‘I think school is really important, but it’s more important to save money.
Elizabeth Hernandez, Columbia Basin College
Hernandez, the adviser for the Dreams without Borders club, said the uncertainty leaves some of her students shifting their priorities to work rather than class.
“I had two professors call me and say ‘I have students that don’t want to go to class,’ ” she said. “They’re making alternative plans and saying, ‘I think school is really important, but it’s more important to save money.’ ”
Henscheid took these concerns to the faculty senate. The 12-member faculty governing board approved a resolution aimed at relieving some of the fears.
The resolution stops short of calling Columbia Basin College a sanctuary campus, she said. This was based on advice she received from former college president Rich Cummins.
“Our state’s attorney general has advised all public institutions of higher education that they do not have legal authority to unilaterally declare their campuses as immigration sanctuaries in defiance of federal immigration law,” Cummins wrote in early December.
Federal officials have threatened to pursue legal and financial action against “sanctuary jurisdictions.”
When a group of WSU professors urged the university to become a sanctuary campus, President Kirk Schulz, Provost Dan Bernardo and Interim Vice President for Student Affairs Melynda Huskey supported all of their students, but didn’t pursue the title of sanctuary campus.
WSU police don’t normally ask students about their immigration status, and university officials don’t provide student information to Immigration and Customs Enforcement unless required by subpoena, law or with a student’s permission, the three university leaders said.
Information about a student’s immigration status isn’t something that I need to know to do my job as a faculty member.
Kristy Henscheid, Columbia Basin College
Columbia Basin College faculty members want students to feel safer, Henscheid said.
“We are not going to be asking about their immigration status. It’s not a requirement to be a citizen of the U.S. to attend school at Columbia Basin College,” she said. “We want to make sure we give them as productive of a learning environment as we can.”
Now that the resolution has been approved, Henscheid is trying to spread information about it to students by talking to groups around campus, she said. She hopes it spurs a discussion about immigration policy in the country.
“Information about a student’s immigration status isn’t something that I need to know to do my job as a faculty member,” she said.
Dream without Borders club students were happy with the resolution, because it shows that the college cares. Hernandez said.