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Little concern on campus about DACA decision

But support in place, superintendent says
By: Mackenzie Myers, Reporter
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Although Placer County contains fewer than one percent of the state’s eligible Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) participants, “even one person matters,” said Western Placer Unified School District superintendent Scott Leaman.

Last week, President Donald Trump announced he is phasing out the Obama-era DACA program, which gives work authorization and temporary relief from deportation to immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children.

Trump gave Congress a March 5 deadline to find a solution. In the meantime, the futures of roughly 800,000 eligible recipients are limbo. 

According to Migration Policy Institute data, about 240,000 DACA recipients reside in California. Most of those eligible are in Southern California counties, including Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego.

Placer County, by contrast, contains fewer than 2,000 people eligible for the program. 

Activity on campus seems to reflect this small number. According to Leaman, counselors within the district have reported no uptick in student fears surrounding deportation -- whether their own, a friend’s or a family member’s.

“There’s been very little activity around it specifically, other than the typical concerns people have had in the new climate,” Leaman said.

While students themselves may not face deportation if they were born here, their parents might. Depending on what Congress decides over the next six months, DACA-recipient parents could also become unemployed. These possibilities, and the situation’s uncertainty, has led to student stress in nearby districts.

In the event of student or parent concern, Leaman said that the district has staff in place to help students experiencing stress. School psychologists can provide mental health support in stressful situations, and the district also employs a behaviorist and a social worker to help students. For students experiencing deeper problems, schools might refer them to Lighthouse Counseling and Family Resource Center.

 

Kathleen LeHane, accountability specialist and supplementary programs director, coordinates a team of three parent liaisons who work with concerned parents across all 11 schools in the district.

Liaisons act as intermediaries between parents and the schools, especially for parents who don’t know how to access services the school offers. According to LeHane, all three liaisons are bilingual, serving both English- and Spanish-speaking families. Consistent with Leaman’s report of DACA fears on campus, LeHane said there has been low family contact regarding the issue.

“It’s mostly not students themselves but extended family members who might be facing a change in their status,” LeHane said. “I’m anticipating hearing from a few families who are affected over time but I don’t think it will be something that reaches a high frequency.”

Besides access to school services, liaisons also direct parents to community resources, LeHane said. For parents concerned about changes to DACA, LeHane said California has many safeguards in place.

“It’s helping them be aware of the safeguards and also giving them access to counselors to help them weather the storm, if you will,” LeHane said. 

Academic counselors are also working with students who are undecided about attending college, possibly depending on their DACA status next March. Their instruction, Leaman said, is “to apply as if this isn’t even going on,” since the deadline for many college applications is in late November, in advance of Congress’ DACA deadline in March.

 Leaman reiterated that the district does not collect citizenship information about its students. It is not legally required to do so, according to information from the Association of California School Administrators.

And though the issue of immigration attracts different points of view, Leaman said it is not a polarized topic on campus and that staff remains committed to supporting students, no matter where they’re from.

“We’re here to educate the kids living within our geographical boundaries,” Leaman said. “That gives us a clear mission: to educate the kids who are with us.”