In Their Voices: Undocumented in California Public Colleges and Universities
California has a proud history of welcoming the immigrant and recognizing the tremendous value immigrants bring to the fabric of our state and the inextricable ties that bind our collective future. College opportunity is key to ensuring that California can meet its economic goals, maintain its global standing, and keep up with technological advances. As California’s economy becomes increasingly reliant on a better-educated workforce and further connected to a global marketplace for its services and products, immigrant students are poised to make major contributions to future growth.
Nearly 27 percent (three million) of the United States’ undocumented immigrants reside in California. Among this diverse population of undocumented immigrants, however, few adults have a college degree. Conservative estimates find that between 64,000 and 86,000 undocumented students are enrolled in California’s public higher education systems. Losing, or even underutilizing, these talented students poses a threat to our state’s workforce and economy when you consider California needs an additional 1.65 million college-educated workers by 2030.
In September of 2017, the Trump Administration announced that it was removing protections for immigrants by rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and ordered the Department of Homeland Security to stop accepting new or renewal applications. Numerous lawsuits ensued, and several courts have halted the Administration’s attempts to end DACA.4 As a result, current DACA holders and potential DACA recipients are in a state of limbo, unsure of their status and what the future will hold. At that moment, the nation and California’s undocumented students became particularly vulnerable to losing out on college opportunity.