University President Christopher Eisgruber '83 sent a letter to congressional leaders on Sept. 5 urging them to place the highest priority on legislation that would provide both immediate and long-term protection for young people who have been enrolled in or are eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has announced that the DACA program, an initiative which protects qualifying children of undocumented immigrants from deportation, will be phased out.
In his letter addressed to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Eisgruber states that President Trump’s decision to repeal the policy has created a state of distress and anxiety for hundreds of thousands of students.
“It is within the power of Congress to give these young people the protections and peace of mind that DACA provided, and going beyond that, a path to permanent residence and citizenship,” Eisgruber writes. “I strongly believe that such an action would be in the national interest, in addition to being very much the right thing to do. I hope Congress will take this action, and will take it quickly.”
The Trump administration has announced that it will continue renewing permits for any DACA enrollee whose status expires before March 5, 2018. As such, Congress has six months to pass legislation to address DACA’s repeal before permits are null and deportations begin to take effect.
Former President Barack Obama spoke out to criticize Trump’s decision to rescind the policy, describing it as "cruel" and "self-defeating” in a Facebook post. Majority Leader McConnell praised Trump's move, saying it “corrects [a] fundamental mistake.” Speaker Ryan has been equivocal on the policy.
Opponents argue that allowing undocumented immigrants into the country threatens employment opportunities for citizens.
“This unilateral executive amnesty, among other things, contributed to a surge of minors at the southern border that yielded terrible humanitarian consequences, and it denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same illegal aliens to take those jobs,” said Sessions in his statement.
Supporters point to the approximately 800,000 enrollees allowed to study and work in the country under the protection of DACA. Furthermore, they argue that deferred action enormously benefits those under its protection.
“The removal of DACA ... is yet one more way the Trump administration shows that the best interests of immigrants are not important to the United States, a country founded by immigrants,” said Katya Flores '20, a member of Princeton Latinos y Amigos. She moved to California legally from Mexico when she was two years old.
“I lost almost everything,” she said, adding that she would do it “all over again to come to the United States and work hard to make my dreams come true, and I am not alone.”
Flores acknowledges the privileges afforded to her by her legal status. Many of those affected by the repeal of DACA “have made the most of their difficult situation,” she said, noting that many were brought into the country without a choice as young children.
These children worked for the betterment of their own lives and contributed to the betterment of this country by going to college, seeking, paying taxes, building houses and starting families, she added.
The repeal of DACA “is one more way they take power from the nearly powerless. It is one more way they tell us that our dreams and accomplishments are not important,” said Flores.
“Donald Trump's decision to rescind DACA is devastating and wrongheaded. DACA was both a just and beneficial program,” said John Zarrilli '18, president of the College Republicans. He noted that his statements reflect his personal views, not necessarily those of the organization. “I stand by the entirety of President Eisgruber's remarks and can only hope for swift congressional action.”
Some members of Congress are now trying to pass the DREAM Act, a proposal for a process to qualify alien minors for conditional residency and permanent residency, which was first introduced by Democratic Senator Dick Durbin and Republican Senator Orrin Hatch in 2001. The bill has been reintroduced unsuccessfully several times since then.
Last week, Eisgruber sent a letter to the White House in which he implored the President to continue the DACA program and to shield it from any future court challenges, the 'Prince' reported.