Tulare County Board of Supervisors issues letter of support for DACA program to their federal delegation


By Paul Myers @PaulM_SGN

VISALIA – While Washington has captivated audiences lately with tax reform and Mueller’s Russia investigation, people here at home are still wringing their hands over immigration and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. And as recently as last Tuesday, Oct. 31 the Tulare County Board of Supervisors prioritized their commitment to immigrants, as they spelled out in a letter sent to both California senators as well as Congressman Valadeo, Congressman McCarthy and Congressman Nunes.

“A large number of immigrant children were brought to the United States at a young age. Many of them did not know that they did not hold a permanent or ‘legal’ status until they wanted to obtain higher education and did not meet the criteria…we believe there should be consideration when looking at permanent status in this country, specifically for those who have not violated any of our laws,” the letter stated.

As well, the letter recognized the economic role that immigrants play when it comes to the agricultural economy of Tulare County.

“The County’s agricultural economy is dependent upon reliable labor, which is typically provided by immigrants. Absent a path to citizenship, a guest worker program, or some sort of immigration fix, there is a tremendous amount of uncertainty for the future of agriculture in our County,” the letter stated as well.

“This is an item this Board of Supervisors has had on its federal lobbying platform for many years,” Board chairman Pete Vander Poel said. “This is not a new item, it is something we have done and this is just another letter that bring it forward to 2017 and reprioritizes it for this board.”

Boardmember Mike Ennis added that he wants to see a path forward that makes immigrants from the DACA program full fledged American citizens. School board president from the Earlimart School District, Abigail Solace, spoke during the public comment portion of the item. She said that if the DACA program was not extended or if something was not put in its place then the consequences could be entire families leaving the County.

“You know this isn’t a partisan issue, this is strictly a humanitarian issue…not one student would leave alone. Him or her would leave their entire family which would mean they would have to vacate their home, parents would have to vacate their place of employment and they would no longer be able to attend our schools. This would affect us dramatically if it happened throughout Tulare County,” Solace said.

She noted to the board that her school district has been facing declining daily student attendance numbers, which she presumes is due in part to the political climate over immigration.

The Board voted unanimously, 5-0 to issue the letter.

But the Tulare County Board of Supervisors are not the only governing board in Tulare County to issue a letter to federal representatives. In fact the Lindsay Unified School District (LUSD) Board of Education drafted their own letter earlier in the year.

During their Sept. 11 board meeting board member Perla Soria introduced a discussion item over DACA. She said that she wanted to bring attention to what some of the “dreamers” in the district were feeling. Dreamers is the nickname given to undocumented college students named after the California Dream Act which allows them to apply for state-funded financial aid.

Soria added that she wanted to see if there was a way that the board could contact congressmen Devin Nunes and David Valadeo, who represent Lindsay and nearby towns where Lindsay learners live.

Soria added that the district sent out information to student households to notify them what the district is doing while adding contact information for their congressman.  She said that she hopes residents contact their congressman to inform them on what they want their representative to do over DACA.

The board instructed superintendent Tom Rooney to draft a letter to both McCarthy and Nunes to notify them of the board’s feelings over DACA and how it effects their students. Soria said that the letter will be turned into a resolution for the board to pass.

The letter discussed on Monday informs Nunes and Valadeo that the district serves a large number of Hispanic students and “some of them who are fearful of what will become of them and their families should DACA be rescinded.”

The letter also makes the plea that the rescission of DACA “will deny our schools and communities many very bright and highly motivated learners, parents and staff who are making invaluable contribution to our cities and states.”

The letter closes by saying, “We are counting on you [Congressmen Nunes and Valadeo] to support comprehensive immigration reform that provides a just and equitable solution to this very important issue.”

LUSD’s resolution, also considered that Monday, resolves that the Congress including the California delegation work with President Donald Trump to enact legislation prior to March 2018. The district outlines in the resolution that DACA will be eliminated by next March unless Congress acts to replace it. The resolution states as well that legislation should continue at a minimum the “existing DACA program and provide DACA recipients with a pathway to permanent residence and eventually to U.S. Citizenship.”

In Mineral King Podcasting Company’s The Paper Trail Podcast, episode 9, the issue was addressed in an interview with history and political science professor Stephen Tootle who currently teaches at College of the Sequoias (COS). The podcast also introduced one local DACA recipient, Jessica Macias-Mercado, who is a student at COS. The episode delves into the history of citizenship in the United States and what the process is for a DACA recipient to achieve legal status. The Paper Trail Podcast can be found at iTunes, Stitcher, and Google Play and a full list of episodes can also be found at papertrailpod.com.

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