Hancock College students, faculty and community members packed the Student Center conference room Wednesday for an educational panel hosted by the the college's Dream Club and AB 540 Working Group.

The event provided education and support for students who benefit from the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program and featured representatives from the Santa Barbara Scholarship Foundation, the Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE) and Rep. Salud Carbajal's office.

Yesenia Beas, president of the school's Dream Club, said that Hancock College President/Superintendent Kevin Walthers previously approached her to inform the club of California Community College Chancellor Eloy Oakley's declaration of Oct. 16 to 20 as the statewide DACA Advocacy Week. According to Beas, Walthers and other campus administrators were interested in collaborating with the group to plan events for the college.

"Administration has been very supportive of us," she said, adding that the club is currently in discussions to establish a resource center for undocumented students on campus.

Established in 2012 by the Obama administration, the DACA program granted temporary stays of deportation to undocumented immigrants who met specific criteria. Many used the program to pursue secondary or higher education, or to obtain work authorization visas for legal employment.

While President Donald Trump has directed Attorney General Jeff Sessions to terminate the Obama-era program by March 2018, Mayte Solis, Hancock College's basic skills coordinator and Dream Club adviser, encouraged students to remain positive despite legislative uncertainty.

“We’re here to support you,” Solis said. “You may get discouraged because DACA is over, but it will not affect [current legislative efforts].”

Earlier this month, Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB 54, the California Values Act, which limits cooperation between federal immigration authorities and local or state law enforcement agencies. (Hancock College Police currently do not detain, question or arrest individuals based on suspected legal status.)

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Diana Villanueva, Carbajal's district representative, said there is currently momentum at the federal level to establish a successor program to provide for undocumented citizens.

"We have up to March to [devise] a solution and there is currently a lot of conversation in Washington, D.C., [about how Congress will] support Dreamers,” she said, encouraging the audience to research various proposals and contact their elected representatives.

“Let them know what you support and why."

DACA Advocacy Week will end Thursday, Oct. 19, following a Dreamers Transfer Workshop. The workshop will be held from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. in Room A-103.

Mathew Burciaga covers education in Santa Maria and the surrounding area for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @math_burciaga



Santa Maria Times reporter Mathew Burciaga covers education for Lee Central Coast Newspapers.