Blog: Higher Ed Beat

University Leaders React to Potential Loss of DACA

With the White House expected to decide shortly on the fate of the DACA program, questions loom about future access to U.S. education by undocumented immigrants. And some education leaders are speaking out this week in favor of protecting the program.

During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump vowed to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allows some unauthorized immigrants brought to the U.S. as children to remain here for renewable terms of two years. But in recent months, the president has walked back from that stance and assured individuals enrolled in DACA that they would not lose their privileges — while also leaving room for the program’s status to change in the future.

Nearly 800,000 immigrants have been granted permission to stay in the U.S. under the DACA program since it was created five years ago by President Obama under an executive order.

USA Today reported that about 65,000 undocumented immigrants graduate from high school each year, and 10,000 graduate from college, according to data from the advocacy group Educators for Fair Consideration.

The pressure for the White House to decide now comes from a group of 10 state attorneys general to end DACA by Sept. 5 or face a legal battle, reports the Associated Press.

At a press conference in February, Trump told reporters that he wants to “deal with DACA with heart.” His advisors are now signaling he will allow individuals currently enrolled in the program to continue, and will likely just shut down future applicants and renewals, meaning anyone currently enrolled in DACA would have at most two years of deportation protection.

College Presidents at Harvard, Yale Weigh In

Now, as the program’s future is threatened, some education leaders have come forward to argue for its value.

This week, several university leaders have penned letters urging Trump not to dismiss DACA, including the presidents of Harvard, Princeton, Yale and Duke, reports The Atlantic. The letters mark a doubling-down on their promise last November when the same presidents — along with 600 of their colleagues — signed a statement in support of DACA.

Catholic educators in higher education have also jumped on board — including 1,300 Catholic college presidents and bishops — to call on White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, a fellow Catholic, to pressure Trump to keep the program.

“Every human being bears within him or her the image of God, which confers upon us a dignity higher than any passport or immigration status,” Bishop Seitz said in a statement released Aug. 28, as reported by U.S. News and World Report.

Last November, more than 70 college presidents of Catholic schools signed a petition to support their undocumented students. Their statement was posted online by the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities.

The Denver school district also has expressed concern at the potential end of DACA, which it said could have “catastrophic” effects on the city school system and its surrounding community, reported The Denver Post. DPS was the first school district in the nation to hire teachers under DACA, the newspaper reported, and Colorado is currently home to 17,000 DACA recipients.

Further research, collected by several groups of DACA advocates and published on the website of the Center for American Progress, a liberal-leaning think tank, found that a large share of “Dreamers,” as its recipients are known, are pursuing higher education. Forty-five percent of Dreamers surveyed said they are currently enrolled in a college or university, with 72 percent of those people pursuing a bachelor’s degree or higher.