Chancellor Gary S. May will join top congressional Democrats at a Capitol Hill news conference Wednesday (Oct. 25) in support of “Dreamers” and legislation under which they could stay in the United States to continue their education and contribute to society without fear of deportation.
May and one other university leader, Chancellor Kristina Johnson of the State University of New York, will give remarks, along with Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California and Richard Durbin of Illinois.
Today (Oct. 24) in Washington, Chancellor May met with Sen. Feinstein, after which she tweeted: “Thank you Chancellor Gary May for giving #Dreamers the power to flourish at @UCDavis! I really enjoyed our meeting today. #DefendDACA.”
Wednesday’s news conference comes less than a week after all 10 UC campuses joined nearly 800 other U.S. colleges and universities in signing a letter to congressional leaders urging them “to take the action that President Trump requested when he rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, and pass a long-term legislative fix as soon as possible to protect Dreamers, outstanding young people brought to our country as children.”
The Oct. 19 letter from the American Council on Education stated: “Colleges and universities have seen these remarkable people up close, in our classrooms and as our colleagues and friends. Despite the challenges they face, they have made incredible contributions to our country and its economy and security. They should continue to be able to do so. If we are unable to protect these Dreamers, we will be shutting the door to an entire generation of individuals who seek to contribute their best to America.”
A couple of “Dreamers” also are due to speak at Wednesday’s news conference. One of UC Davis’ own “Dreamers,” Karla Ornelas, penned an op-ed that appeared Oct. 18 in The Sacramento Bee, under the headline, “A ‘Dreamer’ Wants to Give Back to the Central Valley.”
Ornelas, who grew up in the valley, told of accompanying her Spanish-speaking mother to a recent medical appointment in the valley: “She needed to review some lab results. My mother had a lot of questions, and I interpreted her concerns and questions to the physician. The doctor answered with ‘Don’t worry about it’ and ‘You don’t need to know that.’
“My mother grew irritated at the lack of explanation. I became frustrated that this type of treatment happens too often with a community that relies on physicians and other medical personnel who do not speak the same language.”
Ornelas said she grew up with a variety of challenges as a daughter of farmworkers, as a minority, and as a low-income and first-generation U.S. resident. “What is the most difficult is the language barrier in the medical field,” she wrote.
Today, she is a third-year student (psychology and pre-med) and an intern at Clínica Tepati, a student-run clinic that provides health care and education to the undocumented and uninsured Latino population in Sacramento. “I have the privilege to work with volunteer undergraduates, medical students and staff from UC Davis Health,” she said. “It has affirmed my goal: to become a physician and work in the Central Valley — the community that needs me the most.
“I am also a ‘Dreamer,’” she said. “I did not come here to steal or take, but only to offer and earn. I carry the burden of my parents’ sacrifices and my community’s needs. I have claimed the American dream as my own.”
‘The very best of our country’
UC President Janet Napolitano and all the UC chancellors sent an urgent appeal last week to California’s congressional delegation, pressing them to take the lead in building bipartisan support for legislation to protect the nation’s “Dreamers.”
The issue is of critical importance to the state and the university, the UC officials said in their Oct. 16 letter. It cited these statistics: California has roughly 220,000 DACA permit-holders, and UC has approximately 4,000 undocumented students, a substantial number of whom have DACA.
“UC Dreamers represent the very best of our country — they are role models to their peers and critical to our nation’s progress,” Napolitano and the chancellors wrote. “To strip them of DACA will upend their lives and the lives of their families and puts their ability to continue their educational pursuits at substantial risk.”
UC has filed a lawsuit in federal court that seeks to block DACA’s rescission. The case is expected to have its first hearing in December.
Police chief’s open letter
Joseph Farrow, UC Davis’ new police chief, posted an open letter to the campus community last week, echoing Chancellor May’s and President Napolitano’s disappointment in the White House’s decision to end the DACA program.
He reaffirmed “that the UC Davis Police Department will not contact, detain or arrest an individual solely based on their actual or suspected immigration status. Furthermore, the UC Davis Police Department will not conduct sweeps or other concentrated efforts to detain suspected undocumented members of our community.”
As UC Davis’ law enforcement authority, Farrow wrote, “I wholeheartedly support our university’s model of empowerment and opportunity, and strongly advocate for bipartisan legislation that will provide a permanent solution for undocumented immigrants who have been our friends, colleagues and loved one for countless years.”