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Colleges reach out to president-elect on behalf of undocumented students

City News Service | 12/1/2016, midnight

The leaders of the California State University, University of California and California Community College systems sent a letter to President-elect Donald Trump recently, asking that he maintain a program sparing people who were brought to the country illegally as minors from deportation, so they can pursue higher education.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, enacted by President Barack Obama in 2012, offers protection for some people who were brought to the United States by their parents when they were younger than 16, provided they have not been convicted of a serious crime.

Trump, however, has been an outspoken critic of illegal immigration and has vowed to deport millions of people in the country illegally—raising concerns among immigrant communities that the DACA program will be eliminated.

In a two-page letter, CSU Chancellor Timothy White, UC President Janet Napolitano and incoming CCC Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley urged Trump to maintain the DACA program to “allow these young people to continue to pursue a college education and contribute to their communities and the nation.”

“The University of California, California State University and the California Community College systems each have thousands of DACA students studying at our institutions,” according to the letter. “They are constructive and contributing members of our communities. They should be able to pursue their dream of higher education without fear of being arrested, deported or rounded up for just trying to learn.

“There will be a time for a vigorous debate and dialogue around immigration reform in the days ahead, and we look forward to engaging with you in a healthy and constructive conversation on this important issue,” the education leaders wrote.

The letter comes amid growing sentiment among some students and immigration-advocacy groups that college campuses in the state be declared “sanctuaries” off-limits to immigration authorities.

Earlier this month, White sent a letter to CSU students and staff declining to declare the campuses “sanctuaries,” but assuring that the system will not honor immigration-hold requests or work with law-enforcement agencies trying to enforce federal immigration laws.

The UC system has established a committee to study DACA and other immigration issues and their possible impact on students.