With President Donald Trump’s recent threat to end DACA and potentially deport nearly 790,000 unauthorized immigrants or “Dreamers” and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ attempts to rollback Title IX policies instituted under Barack Obama’s presidency that outlined how schools investigated campus sexual assaults, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the lives of many Los Rios Community College students will be impacted by our federal leaders in a profound and negative way in the near future.
The Los Rios Community College District and American River College have a moral obligation to step in and show support for their students in these turbulent times because the students being most affected are already minority groups that have trouble finding adequate representation to begin with.
This is where ARC and Los Rios administration can draw a line in the sand and show support for some of their most vulnerable student populations.
On Sept. 5, in an effort to comfort worried students, California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley released a statement defending DACA recipients.
“Ending DACA is a heartless and senseless decision that goes against American ideals and basic human decency. Those who are affected by this decision were brought to this country as children and are pursuing an education and making contributions to their communities. We will remain committed to serving all students, regardless of immigration status and to providing safe and welcoming environments in which to learn,” Ortiz Oakley said. “We will do all within our power to assist students affected by this decision, and we will advocate tirelessly in Congress for a permanent resolution to this issue.”
While Ortiz Oakley has made it clear she is looking to protect DACA recipients, her words have done little to lessen the fears these students face each and every day they come to school.
Students are terrified. During The Current’s initial DACA coverage, we reached out to the campus’s Undocumented and Unafraid Club and to the Associated Student Body Senate (among other groups), and found there was a resounding wave of people afraid to talk in fear of retaliation in the future. It’s important to note that this was after Ortiz Oakley’s statement on behalf of California Community Colleges.
Added on top of the fear of deportation, Dreamers (as well as all students) now also have to worry about how schools and campus police departments across the country are going to handle sex crime accusations due to DeVos’ attempt to undo Obama-era changes to the reporting and investigating of campus sexual assaults.
Under the Obama administration, campus police and administration were given strict guidelines on how to investigate sex crimes and conduct hearings.
DeVos is now looking to rewrite these guidelines in what she calls an attempt to protect victims and those that are falsely accused.
“The truth is that the system established by the prior [Obama] administration has failed too many students. Survivors, victims of a lack of due process and campus administrators have all told me that the current approach does a disservice to everyone involved,” DeVos said in a Sept. 7 speech.
Department of Education’s top civil rights official, Candice Jackson agreed, telling the New York Times that: “Rather, the [sexual assault] accusations — 90 percent of them — fall into the category of ‘we were both drunk,’ ‘we broke up, and six months later I found myself under a Title IX investigation because she just decided that our last sleeping together was not quite right.”
It’s sentiments like that which have forced campus sexual assault victims into hiding and potentially thousands of crimes to go unreported in the process —‚something that is sure to only get worse if DeVos is successfully able to undo Title IX policies.
With the heavy stigma that many victims of sexual assault already feel, it is incredible that DeVos and company are calling for what are, essentially, looser guidelines on sex crime investigations and their handling while feeding obviously incorrect information to the public about the nature of college sex crimes.
One can only imagine the terrifying position an unauthorized immigrant would find themselves in if they were the victim of a sex crime on a college campus. With rising fears of deportation and the removal of laws that were put in place to protect victims, Dreamers will be increasingly left with fewer and fewer options to turn to.
According to the Rape, Abuse,and Incest National Network, college-aged women are already at an elevated risk of sexual assault. Factor in that a lot of these Dreamers are afraid to talk to campus police and administration, there is a perfect storm brewing of unreported sexual violence.
The bitter irony of the whole situation is that Trump referred to Mexican immigrants as “rapists,” on the campaign trail and now, as he tries to find a way to make it harder for these college-bound immigrants to gain access to an education, DeVos is trying to make it easier for actual college campus rapists to get away with their horrid crimes.
And to only add more fuel to this already terrifying fire, a former Los Rios Police Department Officer is currently on trial for five counts of rape from his time as a Los Rios and San Mateo police officer.
Noah Winchester served as an LRPD officer from Jan. 1, 2009 to Jan. 16, 2015. In that time, he allegedly raped several women before eventually transferring to San Mateo and being arrested and charged for additional counts of rape while serving as a police officer there.
The campus administration and police department already failed students once by letting Winchester continue to work after allegations came forward during his time as a Los Rios police officer, it is now up to them to repair the damage they’ve done to their reputation and prove to their students that they can truly be trusted in trying times like these, especially since DeVos is in the process of removing campus sexual assault guidelines.
How are students, and undocumented students expected to feel safe in a climate like this? With Washington painting a target on the backs of nearly 800,000 Dreamers and campus guidelines for the handling of sexaul assaults being thrown out of the window nationwide, it is up to the Los Rios Community College District to draw a line in the sand between them and the Trump administration.