The first day back in school is usually filled with uncertainty and nervousness. For those students who were protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), this first day of a new semester is filled with a new level of uncertainty, especially as it relates to their future status in the United States.
Since President Trump’s decision to rescind DACA, leaders from many of the top schools in the nation have stepped up to criticize the president’s decision and give assurance to their undocumented students that they will be protected on their campus.
At President Trump’s alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, the decision to end DACA was condemned in a statement by University President Amy Gutmann. She said, “this is a heartbreaking day for our country.” Gutmann continued, “President Trump’s decision to repeal the DACA program threatens hundreds of thousands of young people who were raised in America, love this country and are an integral part of the American Dream.”
Under the DACA program, 800,000 undocumented young people who were brought to the U.S. as children were kept from deportation and given a chance to work or attend school. But Attorney General Jeff Sessions determined that the program would not be able to withstand a court challenge. Sessions said, “The Department of Justice cannot defend this overreach. There is nothing compassionate about the failure to enforce immigration laws. Enforcing the law saves lives, protects communities and taxpayers, and prevents human suffering. Inability to enforce the laws in the past has put our nation at risk of crime, violence and even terrorism. The compassionate thing is to end the lawlessness, (and) enforce our laws.”
The Trump administration’s decision will give Congress six months of a delay so that they could pass legislation to keep DACA’s protections in place. In the meantime, Universities like Penn declared itself a “sanctuary campus.” In fact, they said in 2016 that they would not allow Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customs and Border Protection or US Citizenship and Immigration Service agents onto their campus unless they have a warrant. On Tuesday, the university reiterated their position, saying they would “do everything (they) can to support and assist the Dream Act students who are valued members of our community.”
Other universities joined Penn in condemning the decision including Columbia, Harvard, and Cornell. Harvard said that it wouldn’t consider immigration status as a part of its admissions and financial aid process. The prestigious university noted that it “does not voluntarily share information on the immigration status of undocumented community members, and federal officials attempting to enforce immigration laws on campus are required to obtain a judicial warrant.”
Amherst College President Carolyn “Biddy,” Martin said the decision to end DACA was “reprehensible.” She refused to allow her college to share immigration status information with ICE without a subpoena. Janet Napolitano, the former Department of Homeland Security Secretary and now the president of the University of California system, said she was “deeply troubled” by the decision. Adding, “this backward-thinking, far-reaching move threatens to separate families and derail the futures of some of this country’s brightest young minds, thousands of whom currently attend or have graduated from the University of California.”
Before President Trump made his decision, more than 640 college and university presidents signed on to a letter of support for DACA.
“We are prepared to meet with you to present our case. This is both a moral imperative and a national necessity. America needs talent — and these students, who have been raised and educated in the United States, are already part of our national community,” the letter said. “They represent what is best about America, and as scholars and leaders they are essential to the future.”
What do you think about the support universities and their presidents are giving these undocumented young people?