Colleges, universities and students nationwide have condemned a plan to rescind a rule from 2012 that protects undocumented child immigrants brought to the U.S. as children by parents or family members from deportation.
In Washington, students and educators marched to the White House to protest President Donald Trump’s announcement to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) measure created by then-president Barack Obama.
Many of the young immigrants are nicknamed Dreamers because they pursue what is commonly known as the American Dream: better education and life in the prosperous U.S.
Demonstrations took place across the country in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, as thousands of Dreamers and others protested the decision made by the Trump administration to leave the DACA policy in the hands of Congress.
Among the nearly 800,000 Dreamers in the United States, about 65,000 graduate from American high schools and nearly 10,000 graduate from U.S. colleges every year.
“To have a lawful system of immigration that serves the national interest, we cannot admit everyone who would like to come here,” U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Tuesday in announcing the decision. “That is an open-border policy and the American people have rightly rejected it.”
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Illegal immigration has been a focus of the Trump administration, which says undocumented immigrants take jobs and public funding from citizen taxpayers.
DACA makes Dreamers eligible to receive work permits and stay in the United States without risk of deportation for two years. They have been allowed to renew their work permits after being granted deferred action. But the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has stopped receiving applications for DACA since the September 5 announcement.
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On August 28, the American Council on Education (ACE) and 36 other educational associations - including the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, and Association of American Universities - wrote a letter to Trump, lobbying to keep DACA intact.
In a September 5 letter from Harvard University, President Drew Faust said, “In the months to come, we will make every effort to have our voice heard … about the need for the protections of DACA to continue.”
Four states - Hawaii, Michigan, Oklahoma and Rhode Island - allow undocumented students to receive in-state tuition. Virginia allows to undocumented students, but only if they are part of DACA.
Sixteen states (California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Texas, Utah, and Washington) have laws protecting undocumented students, and offer in-state tuition at their public colleges and universities.
Stockton University in New Jersey has labeled itself a “safe campus” under a program called Stockton Safe, which protects the identity and information of all students to the fullest extent permitted by law, which is on the school's website.
“There are DACA students on campus and we are following the state laws in place to protect our students,” Diane D’Amico, director of news and media relations at Stockton University, told VOA Student Union. “We don't know what Congress is going to do and we will continue to monitor the situation so that our students can continue their education.”
California State University-Fresno has posted information on its school website for its 1,000 Dreamers, who are among a school population of 25,000. It advises how to qualify to DACA, what rights recipients of DACA have, and what services the school offers. Fresno’s President Joseph Castro tweeted the university’s support.
Congress has until March 5, 2018, to provide an alternative to DACA before protections for Dreamers will end.
VOA Student Union reporters Zach Rayment and Max Cotton contributed to this story.