DACA Day of Action at SMC

A small group of students, faculty, and staff gathered near the north quad fountain on Santa Monica College’s main campus on Monday, March 5 at 10 a.m. They held banners and placards declaring their support for SMC’s undocumented student community.

“Today was the day that DACA would’ve been ending,” said Nick Mata, Director of Special Programs, and one of the organizers of the event. “But a court injunction has stalled DACA from actually ending for now." He stated that this event was not a protest, but a day of continued action. “What we want is for Congress to pass a clean DREAM Act and provide a pathway to citizenship, but not hurt DACA family members or those who are not in education."

On September 5, 2017, the Trump Administration announced that the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program would end in six months, unless Congress passed legislation to save the program, which it has failed to do thus far.

Given the uncertain future of DACA, the gathering aimed to provide visible support for the undocumented community. Standing among the crowd were Nancy Grass, Associate Dean of Student Life, and Michael Tuitasi, Vice President of Student Affairs. “We came out to show support for our undocumented students and let them know that SMC is a safe place to go to school,” Tuitasi said. Grass agreed, saying, "We’re here to support all of our students, and our DACA students are part of that."

From the quad, the group marched to the Business building and gathered in room 111. More than a dozen administrators, faculty, and staff members, along with a handful of students, sat in chairs assembled in a circle. On the walls hung posters bearing handwritten messages of support to undocumented students.

“We care about our undocumented students and want to be a proactive community,” said Edna Chavarry, Director of Academic Affairs Initiatives, to the assembled group. "Tell us educators how we can support you.” She also emphasized that they wanted to create a safe space for undocumented students and DACA recipients to be heard.

A student who identified himself as a DACA recipient, stood up, and spoke about the dangers he experienced as a small child immigrating to the United States and the difficulties he has faced. “Every day, I have to prove I’m human,“ he said. “My life would be so much easier if I had my papers,” he stated, as several students around him nodded their heads.

Throughout the day, representatives from numerous departments, such as the Wellness Center, the SMC President’s office, and the STEM program, spoke to the students. “I went to [SMC’s Undocumented Ally Program] training and it was a very moving experience," said Elaine Polacheck, Interim Executive Vice President of SMC, “your dreams and aspirations are this country’s dreams and aspirations."

Amid the statements of support, SMC student Andrea Ramos, voiced her frustrations. “I’m undocumented and I don’t have DACA, so I need to know about those resources,” Ramos said, “SMC needs to step it up a lot. You need to create one resource center where everyone can be directed." Ramos also described how she found important resources in piecemeal fashion asking one person or another for help. “I’m just getting by, and I’m tired of just getting by."