Model Student Faces Deportation as DREAM Act Remains Pending

UCSB student Cindy Reyna, who was taken into custody at the Santa Barbara County Jail last Thursday after being unable to produce American identification at a DUI checkpoint in Goleta, is now being held in an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainment center in Camarillo.

Originally from Guatemala, the fourth-year communication and linguistics major now faces deportation despite the fact that her parents are citizens who brought her to the U.S. at the age of 15. Reyna, who transferred to UCSB last year from SBCC, carries a 3.8 GPA, maintains an active involvement in campus groups and works to deliver news to local Spanish-speakers at Azteca Television.

A petition created yesterday to halt Reyna’s deportation had garnered 6,378 signatures of its goal of 10,000 as of press time.

The pending legal status of California’s DREAM Act allows students in Reyna’s position to be taken into custody until the law goes into effect in Jan. 2013. However, Santa Barbara County Jail American Civil Liberties Union Ombudsman Laura Ronchietto said cases like these should be protected under the memorandum issued last June by ICE Director John Morton, stating that criminal offenders would constitute the department’s top priority.

“[Reyna] would not be a priority because it’s a waste of resources to detain and possibly deport a student who’s been here, attended high school here, who’s going to potentially have a college degree and will be able to give back to the country,” Ronchietto said. “[It’s not a priority to] deport a senior who’s about to graduate, who could get a great job and pay taxes and do all these things, but instead what they’re going to do is just deport her and all the money’s that’s been spent on her education goes to waste. She can take those skills with her to Guatemala, which doesn’t make any sense when we have a skilled worker to stay within the country.”

Fourth-year history of public policy and environmental studies major Nayra Pacheco, who has known Reyna since high school, said the situation is disheartening for many members of the campus community.

“To have a student like her who faces [financial aid] obstacles and is still as involved as she is in the community and maintains a great academic record, the community is really losing a well-rounded student,” Pacheco said. “A lot of people know Cindy and how outgoing and caring she is; it just doesn’t make sense to a lot of us why this would happen.”

Pacheco said the circumstances have also heightened anxiety for other undocumented students on campus.

“It’s a big worry now, because if somebody like her can get detained for the simple act of being at the wrong place at the wrong time, then anybody can and it adds to the insecurity that it is to be an undocumented student,” Pacheco said. “It affects every facet of your life.”

Greg Prieto, a doctoral candidate in the sociology department, said current federal laws leave such students in a vulnerable position.

“Without a national DREAM Act that grants these students a pathway to legislation, they still encounter these obstacles to social ability after college,” Prieto said. “Universities, under those circumstances, can’t do a lot directly.”

Although Reyna’s bail has yet to be set, it can range anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000. From Camarillo, she could be taken to Los Angeles and then held in a detention facility elsewhere in California, pending a resolution on her deportation status.

To sign Reyna’s petition and learn other ways to support her, visit