The Trump administration has announced plans to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which since 2012 has prevented hundreds of thousands of undocumented young immigrants from being deported.
Former President Barack Obama implemented DACA as a means to protect young people who were brought to the United States by their caregivers as children, under circumstances over which they had no control. There are currently over 800,000 recipients, Elizabeth Redden reports for Inside Higher Ed, who have become known colloquially as Dreamers.
Since taking office, President Trump has hinted that he might take action related to DACA, and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has criticized the program, saying that undocumented immigrants such as DACA recipients have taken jobs that could be held by American citizens, Redden reports. Sessions has also argued that the creation of the program by the Obama administration was an example of unconstitutional executive overreach.
Trump's decision to end the program came after several DACA-opposing attorneys general from around the country threatened to sue the Trump administration, Redden reports. However, both Trump and Sessions left open the possibility for Congress to extend or permanently install the program legislatively within the next six months, according to Redden.
While it was not the first time higher education leaders participated in the DACA debate, this week's announcement from the Trump administration has prompted a big response. Many college leaders noted that some of their own institution's students are Dreamers.
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For example, Randy W. Grissom, president of Sante Fe Community College, organized a rally for students, faculty, and staff on behalf of its immigrant students, Redden reports. The college had previously designated itself as a sanctuary campus in response to what they believed to be more hostile enforcement of immigration policies by the Trump administration, she writes.
Drew Faust, president of Harvard University, released a letter outlining the ways in which Harvard supports its undocumented and DACA-enrolled students. She included Harvard Law School's Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program, a 24-7 emergency hotline, and counseling services, according to Redden. Faust also reaffirmed Harvard's commitment to advocating for DACA beneficiaries and reiterated that the institution's financial aid decisions do not take immigration status into consideration, Redden reports.
Industry groups also expressed concerns. Peter McPherson, president of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, expressed concern for the future of the 800,000 DACA recipients and sympathized with the uncertainty he said they are probably feeling, Redden reports. Similar words came from Ted Mitchell, president of the American Council on Education. Mitchell argued that DACA has practical benefits, such as tax revenues generated from the economic activity of DACA recipients (Redden, Inside Higher Ed, 9/6; Fattal, The Atlantic, 9/1).
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