What Major Universities Had to Say About Trump’s Move to Roll Back DACA

September 05, 2017

Zach Gibson, Getty Images
Protesters sit on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington on Tuesday in response to the Trump administration's announcement that it would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Colleges overwhelmingly condemned the action and vowed to help students affected by it.

Shortly after the Trump administration announced on Tuesday that it would rescind a federal program that offered legal protections to undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children, dozens of universities declared their virtually unanimous opposition to the move. Major colleges and higher-ed systems and associations issued a cascade of critical statements — a wave of condemnation reminiscent of higher ed's response to President Trump's travel ban.

Here's a brief, incomplete rundown of what some major colleges said of the order to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA:

The University of California at Berkeley sent a stark message on social media, tweeting, "We stand with our undocumented students." In a statement, the university's chancellor, Carol Christ, and two other administrators wrote that the university would lobby its Congressional representatives to "take action to provide protection for our undocumented students and give them a path to permanent residency and eventually citizenship."

At Columbia University, Suzanne Goldberg, a professor and the executive vice president for university life, issued a letter condemning the decision to terminate DACA. Ms. Goldberg explained what services Columbia could provide to protect its undocumented students, including "pro bono legal representation for DACA and undocumented students on immigration-related matters." She also said Columbia could offer financial assistance to students "whose work authorization under DACA is not renewed."

On August 31, only a few days before President Trump announced his decision to terminate DACA, the University of Notre Dame's president, the Rev. John I. Jenkins, made a statement in support of DACA. He said DACA had given status to "young people who have done nothing wrong, most of whom have only known life in the United States and who will make important contributions to it." Father Jenkins's statement ran contrary to that of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who said on Tuesday that DACA "yielded terrible humanitarian consequences" at the southern border and "denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans."

On Tuesday, Father Jenkins underscored his earlier remarks in a new statement, adding that the university would "provide expert legal assistance" to students covered by the deferred-action program in the event that they lose their legal status.

The chancellor of the University of Texas system, William H. McRaven, argued in a statement that DACA was necessary for the United States and the state of Texas. Mr. McRaven said that immigrants "help us secure our nation, care for our people, foster economic growth, and provide scientific expertise and innovation that improves the human condition." He assured the system's DACA students that "our campuses will remain places where you can safely study as Congress takes up this issue."

University of Colorado administrators have already contacted their state's Congressional delegation, urging lawmakers to ensure that people studying at the system's campuses under DACA would be able to continue to do so. A statement signed by the system's president and all four campus chancellors said the university would work to assist affected students "in every way possible." The statement said the campuses would not release immigration-related information on students or employees to the police without a warrant or subpoena. Students will continue to be enrolled without regard to their immigration status, according to the statement.

A ‘Cruel, Unjustified’ Action

Saying it had "grave concerns" regarding the end of DACA, the University of Connecticut released a statement condemning the move on Tuesday. Ending DACA would be "cruel, unjustified and ultimately self-defeating," the university's president, Susan Herbst, said in a statement. The document also listed several staff members who could help students affected by the move, and included an assurance that university officials would do "all we are able to do" to assist them.

Indiana University said in a statement that it was "deeply disappointed in the Trump administration's decision." The university said it would continue to support students studying under the DACA program using steps outlined on a website dedicated to the topic. Counseling students on immigration matters, investigating reports of harassment, and advocating for continued DACA status are among the methods listed.

At the University of Washington, the office of President Ana Mari Cauce issued a statement saying that terminating DACA "threatens to erode our nation as a democracy" because it restricts immigrants from contributing to the nation's welfare. Regarding immediate protection of the university's DACA students, the statement said that the campus does not have to "provide immigration officials with information about our students or allow immigration officials to enter UW classrooms or residence halls without a court order."

In a joint statement, the five chancellors of the University of Massachusetts system campuses and the system's president, Marty Meehan, condemned the Trump administration's action, calling it "an affront to our core values." The statement also outlined the circumstances under which campuses would release information about a student, presumably referring to an undocumented person who may be at risk of deportation. Those include "permission from the student, a judicial warrant, a subpoena, or as otherwise compelled by law." The leaders added that the campus police "will not voluntarily partner with law enforcement agencies to enforce non-criminal, non-terrorism related immigration actions."