WVC Supports Immigrant Students

December 16, 2016

Dear Members of Our Campus Community,
I have heard from many of you and many community members about your concern for the possibility of deportation of our students who lack citizenship or even of those who hold residency status but are currently protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Executive Order signed by President Obama in 2012.  
President-elect Trump promised on the campaign trail that he will rescind all of his predecessor's Executive Orders. Now that Mr. Trump will be our 45th President on January 20, 2017, I am writing to discuss our current and emerging context under DACA. At the outset, I want everyone to know that I joined the 37 presidents and chancellors in the CTC system, and our state’s university colleagues, in signing a letter addressed to President-elect Trump, asking him to allow DACA to continue. I also joined more than 400 college and university presidents nationwide in signing another letter of support of DACA and DACA students. 
The first part of this message explains why I signed those communications.  The second part of the message describes what the policy demands of us at WVC. 
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is a 2012 executive order of President Obama that allows certain undocumented immigrants to the United States who entered the country as minors to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation. This deferred action includes eligibility for a work permit. DACA is available only to individuals who meet stringent requirements—a simple Google search will return many pages to choose that explain these.
At WVC, these are individuals, now adults, who were brought to the United States as children and who knew nothing of borders between countries. Because the state's Constitution mandates a basic education for all, these kids grew up learning at Washington school desks, eating lunch in Washington school cafeterias, and playing alongside the rest of Washington's sons and daughters, often blithely unaware of the lack of documented status. From this experience, they arrived at our doorstep.  
A representative young woman who frequently shares her own DACA story, is a WVC at Omak graduate who did not discover--until she had graduated, as a valedictorian, from Bridgeport High School--that she was not a US citizen. There are roughly 750,000 DACA students nationwide, including those in K-12. Before DACA, college-bound students discovered that they were not the "same" as their peer groups. They were driven to the shadows of higher education, unable to fully realize their potential or make good on the investment already made by Washington citizens in the form of a K-12 education. These young people are caught in a dilemma that was not of their making.
The state legislature has worked for many years to lessen the impact of this dilemma. In 2003, in-state tuition rates became available to any undocumented student who graduates from a Washington high school or its equivalent, but only if the student has lived in Washington state for at least three years prior to graduation. In 2014, the Real Hope Act made these students eligible for state financial aid as well. 
What does DACA oblige us to know and do?
As College employees, we are obligated to do all that is possible to offer all of our students guidance and support.  Following the mandate of the Executive Order as it stands is a legal duty, but I also believe that ethically we need to provide the platform for achievement and success of all WVC students.  Some things worth noting include the following.
  • Wenatchee Valley College, as well as other public colleges and universities, have no legal obligation or affirmative duty to enforce federal immigration law. That is the responsibility of federal law enforcement agencies.  At the other end of that spectrum, we cannot offer "sanctuary" to anyone from the federal government.  Our job is serve people, not documentation status.
  • Our security officers will not ask anyone anything about immigration status, nor will we volunteer any information about students.  We surrender protected information when we get a lawfully issued subpoena or court order to do so; otherwise, FERPA protects ALL student  records.
  • It is acceptable for any student to decline, for privacy reasons, to respond orally or in writing to requests for a Social Security number.  This is why we issue Student Identification (SID) numbers.
  • WVC does not make admissions decisions about students based on their immigration status, and does not request immigration documentation unless needed to determine their eligibility for resident tuition rates and/or State Need Grant.
  • As an institution of higher learning, WVC protects freedom of speech and the academic freedom of faculty, staff, and students, sometimes defending speech that many might find offensive, but we simply do not tolerate unlawful harassment, threats, or hate crimes as defined under our student conduct code, WVC’s Anti-Discrimination Policy, or applicable law.
  • The College is committed to protecting the safety and promoting the well-being of all students, faculty, and staff, regardless of their immigration status, within the limits of the law. For this purpose we have created the WVC DREAMers Taskforce which is able to support students and their families and make sure they are receiving all resources they are eligible for.  To contact the DREAMers Taskforce please email or call Bertha Sanchez at 509-682-6850, bsanchez@wvc.edu
  • According to the law but even more as a statement of values, WVC endeavors to provide a welcoming and inclusive environment for all people, regardless of immigration status.  U.S. citizenship is not required to attend college in the US.  
That said, and going back to an earlier point, some of you have asked about declaring our college a “sanctuary campus.” 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. 
The broader discussion of immigration reform and enforcement is not the subject of this memo. Regardless of positions any of us might have on broader public policy, our mission asks us simply to continue being respectful and supportive of student success and achievement during an uncertain time for many individuals and families affected by documentation status. Our mission is to transform the lives of our community members through higher learning--regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, political affiliation, age, pregnancy, veteran/military status, or disabilities.  
As always, please feel free to contact me with questions or concerns.
Jim Richardson, Ph.D.
Wenatchee Valley College
1300 Fifth Street
Wenatchee, WA 98801
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