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« Out of Bounds: Hazing in Athletics | Main | Paying Debts to Society, but Unable to Pay for College »

A Reminder to the Essence of Humanity Embedded in DACA

The emergence of Donald Trump and his rescission of The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) spurred the undocumented community to push back against divisive measures within their college campus. Hector Sanchez-Perez is a first-year Sociomedical Sciences Master’s of Public Health student at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. As a “Mailman Dreamer” he epitomizes the resiliency and determination procured to transcend anti-immigrant rhetoric.

But the lives of undocumented students are used as bargaining chips in a political chess game revolving around immigration. Four Harvard Medical Students banded together and used the privilege of their white coats to enlighten a forgotten perspective: the essence of humanity embedded in the DACA executive order.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) order expedited by the Obama Administration protects nearly 800,000 undocumented students, or Dreamers, from the threat of deportation while being permitted to work, apply for credit, and apply for a driver’s license. Former Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano announced that individuals who arrived in the United States as children and met certain criteria could apply for deferred action for two-year periods, subject to renewal.

The border of immigration status often prohibits undocumented students form achieving the American dream of social mobility. Throughout their entire educational careers, undocumented students have accrued the navigational and cultural capital to sustain their resiliency in higher education. Although the fate of DACA rests on impending litigation, it is imperative that universities adhere to the humanist side of the debate, highlighting the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

In a politically charged and divisive campus climate, major universities have assumed a united front against policy-changes on immigration. Shortly after Donald J. Trump’s successful presidential campaign, the University of California declared its commitment to the undocumented student community. The University of California affirmed, “we will not release immigration status or related information in confidential student records, without permission from a student, to federal agencies or other parties without a judicial warrant, a subpoena, a court order or otherwise required by law.” The UC stance is in conjunction and protected under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

The humanity of immigration law pertaining to Dreamers are teetering as undocumented students continue to entrust the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) with sensitive information without fear that the Executive Branch was using DACA as a way to find and remove undocumented immigrants when submitting renewals. President Trump stated, “[Dreamers] shouldn’t be very worried. I do have a big heart. We’re going to take care of everybody” during an ABC News interview in January.

Promptly after the rescission of DACA on September 5, 2017, Harvard University President Drew Faust issued a letter to the Trump administration emphasizing its cruelty as “recognizing neither justice nor mercy” and urged President Trump to preserve protections because like their peers, undocumented students have earned their seat at Harvard.  

Currently, the March 5th deadline is rendered insignificant as now two District Court Judges have halted parts of the DACA rescission. Regents of the University of California v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security was granted a preliminary injunction that reinstated DACA to its September 4, 2017 status, allowing USCIS to resume renewal processing. Its companion case in the Eastern District of New York, Vidal v. Nielsen confirms Regents was ruled invalid in that the rescission action was “arbitrary and capricious” in contrast to the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C § 706(2).

As litigation ensures and the fate of Dreamers out of the hands of the Executive Branch, how deep are universities committed to undocumented students? What extra protections can universities offer students that are still in compliance within federal and state law?

This post was authored by Deon Turner, a Master’s Student in Higher Education Administration at The University of Texas at San Antonio and a Graduate Assistant for UTSA Campus Recreation.


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Reader Comments (6)

I appreciate this discussion of the humanity in the DACA policy. However, I worry that appealing to the humanity of those opposed to DACA is falling on deaf ears. For people opposed to DACA, it seems they need the hard facts like the economic benefits of DACA. They need to see that DACA is not taking anything away from them individually. I also wonder if the Plyler v. Doe decision that ensured access to public K-12 education, regardless of immigration status needs to be revisited. Part of the opinion wrote about the dangers of creating an “underclass” if some children were not given the opportunity to attend school. With changing economic conditions making postsecondary credentials more important, we risk creating an “underclass” if DACA protections are revoked and those students are unable to access high education. The possibility of DACA going away breaks my heart (and my brain), and I wonder the best way to persuade others to realize the value and need for DACA.

April 7, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth Severance

With the new presidential administration speaking very poorly against people who have immigrated to this country illegally, often referring to them as criminals, I appreciate a lot of the discussion that has been had in reference to DACA students. The Dreamers show the human side of this population and how they are striving for a better future for themselves and those around them. It is unfortunate though that their public attention is now due to the negative situation they are being faced with. Even if our government fails these students and does not continue with the DACA I hope that universities or individual states are able to find ways to assist with giving the educational opportunity to this student population which desperately needs it. Texas Tech provides full tuition assistance for students whose families make less than $40,000 a year. Hopefully similar opportunities can be set up for students who previously qualified for DACA. Even if schools provide full financial assistance to a limited number of students, supporting the Dreamer student population to any degree is a step in the right direction and can lead the way for others to follow suit.

April 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterCarlos A Velez

"Humanity" unfortunately seems to hold little esteem in the eyes of many of our compatriots. Personally, I can't fathom wanting to rescind protections for children brought across US borders without their consent. These children didn't ask to be here, they have little or no memory of their countries of origin, and in the case of DACA they are attempting to get an education and presumably become a contributing member of American society. Why then, would anyone want to hold young people back from improving themselves? It's unfathomable to me. Frankly I don't understand any of the hostility to immigrants, but who can argue that an eighteen year old kid is responsible for being brought into this country at the age of four? How many of your four year old children have that kind of autonomy to resist a parents move?

Lifting up the most disadvantaged members of our society can only raise us all together.

May 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterSarah Borden

I absolutely believe that universities should play a major role in DACA students. I am so enamored at UTSA for having the new Dreamer's Center and I believe that all campuses should have one. Colleges should be an important space for students to come and express themselves as well as not fearing for deportation or people treating them differently. These centers can also focus on making sure that legal papers are field and that all students under DACA are safe. This would include hiring staff that is well aware of DACA guidelines and will do all they can to ensure that the students have their paperwork in order and visas are renewed. I love your passion on DACA and it's good to know that if I ever need anyone to discuss DACA with you are very well informed. More colleges need these types of movements in order for their undocumented population to stop living in fear. Very well written Deon.

May 8, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMarcos Villarreal

I appreciate someone writing a blog about DACA because it is becoming a hot topic in our country. Most people are starting believe our presidential administration on these children are criminals because they were crossed into our country illegally. These students were not given a choice, most of their family members come to the United States to better themselves. Most students do not know they are not a US citizen until they try to get a driver license or apply for college. We should not be punishing someone who wants to better themselves. We should be finding a solution to help them with the process of obtaining a degree and possibly having them become US citizens. In the long run it is helping our country. I feel that more and more institutions should educate themselves by listening to DACA students are hearing what they have to do want to get an education.

May 8, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterApril Vasquez

It is hard to fault students for things they had no control over. It is not their fault their parents decided to have them in another country. It is not the students fault they were born into a specific family. It is not every students faulty that their family chose to migrate into America. Some students did not have the option in their lives like other did and do. Some students are not being blamed, mistreated, and being victims to something they had no hand in. So many students are the victims of their parents actions and it is humanities responsibility to recognize this pattern and try to do something to help it. Not all students are not born into an affluent family that can pay for their higher education, so financial aid is available. Not every student chose to be an immigrant so why not help them with their situation. If we can try to help and solve the socio-econmic problem, why can't we help with this one too. It is easy for some to forget they had nothing to do with winning the genetic lottery. Instead, lets give everyone the same chance to succeed with DACA as other do with finical aid.

May 8, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRobert Moya

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