Fresno Unified trustees and Edison High School students gathered Wednesday morning at Manchester Center to open a new Dream Resource Center for students affected by President Donald Trump’s decision to end DACA – a program that protected young immigrants from deportation if they came to the U.S. legally as children.
Trustees will vote Wednesday evening on a resolution to urge Congress to take action and protect DACA students, provide them with a path for legal residency and citizenship and address comprehensive immigration reform. But the president’s decision to end DACA required other action, they said.
“We planned to open this center in October, however there is an immediate need to provide these services to our Fresno Unified students who are affected by the DACA decision,” said Trustee Claudia Cazares.
The center will help families renew applications for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals before the Oct. 5 deadline to reapply, and will also offer citizenship courses and free legal services.
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The center, located in the district’s adult school on the second floor at Manchester Center, will be funded through current state adult education block-grant funds and workforce investment money, said Raine Bumatay, principal of the adult school. The district has applied for a $250,000 two-year federal grant that would be split with the San Joaquin College of Law. The grant would allow the services to be expanded, Bumatay said.
Interim Superintendent Bob Nelson said trustees in March made the district a Safe Place Destination for immigrant students. Schools are sensitive locations exempted from immigration enforcement and trustees directed staff to develop an action plan with the designation. The Dream Resource center is a result of months of collaboration with community partners, he said. “The consensus was to open a centrally located center with public transportation access,” he said. “We believe we’re the first K-12 district of our kind to establish a Dream Resource Center of this kind.”
On this day we are one, and we are Dreamers.
Nancy, 17, Edison High School student
Nelson said the center, located next door to the Fresno Police Department district station, is considered an adjunct school site, and “we would expect it would be treated in the same regard and with the same hands-off approach as we expect at all our institutions of education.”
Trustee Carol Mills said the Dream Resource Center will be a community hub for DACA students and their families to access resources. “Our students and families need support, and that is what brings us here today,” she said.
Trustee Elizabeth Jonasson Rosas said the center “is a local solution for a pressing national problem.” And Trustee Christopher De La Cerda said it provides a partial solution and answer until a solution can be found at the national level.
Trustee Cal Johnson praised the Dreamers, saying the students work harder than American-born students “because they want to stay here.”
Johnson introduced two Edison students who spoke. One, Nancy, 17, who asked The Bee not to use her last name to protect her father who is undocumented, said “we don’t want Dreamers to think the American dream is only for a chosen few.” Nancy and Erika Banuelos, 17, had planned to lead a walkout of Edison students but opted instead to show their support for the Dream Resource Center.
But on Wednesday, Nancy said the conversation over DACA does not end with the center’s opening.
“Erika and I stand with the Dreamers. Edison High stands with the Dreamers. Fresno Unified stands with the Dreamers. We have all come together today … to make our voices heard,” she said. “On this day we are one, and we are Dreamers.”