Local universities continue fight for DACA reform

DREAMER advocates protest end of DACA program. Photo by SCALA News

DREAMER advocates protest end of DACA program. Photo by SCALA News

By Alexander Best
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer

Though Thursday marked the deadline for thousands of undocumented immigrants to renew their status in the U.S., leaders of the University System of Maryland say they will continue efforts to protect and advocate for their students impacted by President Donald Trump’s decision to end the program for DREAMers.

“Trump is consistently proving his inability to lead with the interest of all people living in our country,” said James Mileo, Towson’s SGA president. “The only way we can protect our fellow students and ourselves is to fight and resist every step of the way. We will never back down.”

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, popularly called DACA, was introduced in 2012 by the Obama administration, which wanted to protect from deportation thousands of immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children. Trump on Sept. 5 announced plans to stop accepting new applications and to end the program March 8, 2018.

According to DACA guidelines, individuals who came to the United States before June 2007 and were under the of age 16 when they arrived are eligible to receive work or school permits and remain in the country legally in two-year blocks, as long as they have no significant criminal record. However, the discontinuation of the program by Trump leaves Congress just over five months to legalize DACA before the expiration date.

Thursday was the deadline for current DACA recipients to renew their status for what some predict will be their final time.

DACA documentation. Photo by Getty Images

DACA documentation. Photo by Getty Images

The Trump administration’s plan to rescind DACA was met with swift pushback from several area university leaders.

President Wallace Loh at the University of Maryland, College Park, described Trump’s plan as “antithetical to the core values and missions of the University of Maryland and higher education generally.”

Loh stressed that UMD would continue working with congressional leaders to push for passage of legislation. Two bills under consideration to protect DACA students are the DREAM and BRIDGE Acts.

Loh’s stance was immediately supported by UMD’s SGA, which passed emergency legislation affirming its support of the two acts on Sept. 5. The organization also passed a resolution on Sept. 20 urging the university to continue charging in-state tuition from DACA-eligible students who live in Maryland.

UMD’s SGA President A.J. Pruitt said the group donated $3,000 from its executive reserves to the Student Crisis Fund, which provides assistance to students who demonstrate financial need in emergency situations.

At Towson, the SGA is working on a $5,000 scholarship for undocumented students. The private scholarship would be available to students who are unable to qualify for federally-funded student aid due to their undocumented status.

“This scholarship is what we found, through collaboration with undocumented students, would be the best way for SGA to support undocumented students monetarily,” said Mileo.

Mileo said he was disappointed by the Trump administration’s latest policy change, but not surprised.

Towson President Kim Schatzel responded to the White House announcement with five commitments of the university, including a refusal to partner with immigration authorities to assist with enforcement activities or to detain an immigrant.

“…the university remains committed to fostering an environment where all of our students – regardless of their immigration status, race, religion, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation and levels of ableness – can thrive, flourish and realize their fullest potential,” said Schatzel in a statement.

For students, Trump’s announcement has left many trying to figure out what to do next.

“Every day, undocumented students are faced with a lot of uncertainty, even before Donald Trump was in office,” said Rohan Mattu, a Towson student who is vice president of TU Dreamers.

Mattu said the student-led organization was launched last year with the goal of creating a support and networking system for undocumented students and their allies. He said the mission is to help guide students during this difficult time.

“When Trump announced ‘the end of DACA’ he created one of the darkest days ever for students whose dreams rest on the act,” said Mattu. “The ever-present certainty has doubled under the threat of this White House.”

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