By Patrick Cochran
The sun was out and so were the marchers.
Thousands of people packed into Civic Center Plaza on Jan. 20, and then marched down Market Street for the second annual Women’s March protest against the Trump administration. City College students and faculty were present to be sure their voices were heard.
An issue at the forefront of everyone’s mind was the fate of the Dreamers, the nearly 800,000 people who were illegally brought to the U.S. as children and given legal protection by President Obama under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. President Trump has started the process of ending the program.
A group of former City College instructors, including many who taught English as a Second Language (ESL), were worried about the Dreamers’ fate, funding cutbacks, and the administrators Trump has appointed to lead the Department of Education.
“All of us of are experienced ESL teachers, and this has us extremely concerned,” said Mary Devereaux, a former City College instructor. “Trump creates such a negative atmosphere towards immigrants and education. They are not interested in the public being well educated. In order to have a democratic society you need a well educated society, and that is being attacked.”
Other City College instructors marched under the banner of the American Federation of Teachers Local 2121 (AFT 2121) and were also worried about protecting their students.
“The Dreamers—and immigrants in general—are really terrified of the ICE raids,” said Jessica Buchsbaum, an ESL instructor and AFT 2121 secretary, referring to raids conducted by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. “Even people who are here legally feel threatened because there is an aura of violence and coercion in the air. We are super grateful that we are a sanctuary college. The administration, even the campus police, who fully supportive of making students feel safe and not cooperating with ICE raids. We are a college that primarily serves immigrants, students of color, and low income, all of the people that Trump is attacking, so we are absolutely out here in support.”
The looming threat of possible ICE raids has prompted faculty to issue instructions to educators for how to safeguard vulnerable students.
“Amongst ourselves as a faculty,” Buchsbaum said, “we’ve been specifically speaking about what rights do we have, what would we be compelled to do if ICE showed up, and it’s clear that we don’t have to allow anyone into our classrooms, and don’t have to give out any information unless they have a specific warrant.”
City College student organizations were out in force, too, including the CCSF Solidarity Committee. Created during the accreditation crisis, the committee recently fought for Free City, which currently provides free City College tuition for San Francisco residents. They hope to replicate the idea for all of California.
“We want to include all community colleges, California state universities and the University of California system—for everyone, including undocumented immigrants and formerly incarcerated students,” said Everardo Gonzalez, a student activist at City College. Gonzalez said he also wants non-tuition expenses such as textbooks, housing, food, and transportation to be covered, too.
Despite living in an age of constant turmoil where one Tweet from Trump can have profound consequences, some protestors were able to see a silver lining amidst all of the craziness: that Trump has woken up millions of people.
“I’ve definitely seen more people politically active,” said City College student Cayla Louis. “I’ve been inspired to see people more engaged. Last year, with the airport protests, a lot of people who are in my friend group who had never been to a protest before went.”
“That was good to see,” she said.