By Evan Bourtis, Staff Writer
President Donald Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has sparked debates about a complicated issue: how to deal with undocumented immigrants who came to the United States at a young age.
DACA was enacted by former President Barack Obama and it allows undocumented immigrants who came to the United States under the age of 16 to apply for protection against deportation, be eligible to a work permit, and a chance to study at higher education institutions.
Matt Lake, an academic counselor and Fisher’s international student advisor, is a strong supporter of DACA. After advising international students who came to Fisher on an F1 visa, he has grown to value laws that allow non-native students in the United States to pursue the American dream.
“It feels fair to give them [DACA recipients] opportunities while they’re here to be able to study and work and drive,” said Lake. “And to really work towards that American dream, the thing that we kind of founded ourselves upon as a country.”
Obama enacted DACA in 2012 under executive action and since then, 800,000 people have become DACA recipients, known as DREAMers. The name DREAMers comes from a similar act to DACA called the DREAM Act, that was introduced in 2001 but never became an official law. DREAMers must apply every two years to be eligible for protection, which includes supplying the government with information about where they live and showing that they have a clean criminal record.
“Often times, these people came to this country without really knowing the country they were originally from,” Lake explained. “If a person came here at six months old or a year and a half old, they don’t know what life was like in the country of their birth. This is the only country and the only culture that they really consciously have an understanding of.”
“It feels fair to give them [DACA recipients] opportunities while they’re here to be able to study and work and drive. And to really work towards that American dream, the thing that we kind of founded ourselves upon as a country.” – Matt Lake, Fisher’s international student advisor
Much of the controversy around DACA is due to the fact that DACA was never officially written into law, but instead, enacted through executive action. Many critics of DACA have also argued that the act was an overreach of presidential power from the start. For these reasons, Trump decided to end the DACA program in September 2017. Trump also stated that he would like to create an official piece of legislation that could replace DACA, which would require approval from the House of Representatives and Senate.
Although marketing major Chris Toia supports DACA, he understands why Trump decided to end it. Toia explained that in order to preserve DACA, it needs to become an official law approved by Congress rather than implemented by the executive branch only.
“I think that those people not being here by voluntary choice have every right to stay here because they weren’t the ones who came here illegally, it was their parents,” said Toia. “So I don’t think they should be subject to deportation. With that being said, the way that the law was implemented through executive action…is not normally the way laws are passed in this country.”
Despite this, pre-pharmacy student Taylor Culpepper believes that Trump could have minimized some of the uncertainty about the ending of DACA by creating a law that replaced DACA before ending the program.
“They could have actually tried to, like, actually make it a law before they just decided to get rid of it all together,” said Culpepper.
So far, Congress has proposed four possible replacements for DACA, but has not yet approved any. Currently, DREAMers recipients still qualify for all of DACA’s benefits, but starting March 6, as many as 1,000 recipients per day could lose their benefits, according to a CNN article. This means that, after the deadline, some DREAMers can legally be deported.
Student Matt Walling is worried that Congress will not be able to agree on a replacement for DACA in the near future.
“I would hope that they would, but with this administration, I don’t know if it’s in the foreseeable future with his [Trump’s] stance on immigration,” said Walling.
Toia is also worried that Congress will not be able to come to a consensus, since the House and the Senate are both controlled by Republicans, who tend to take a harsher stance on immigration.
“I think DACA recipients are American citizens like everyone else. They’re here under legal protection of the law. If Fisher does give grants and scholarships to other students struggling financially, I don’t see why they shouldn’t do the same for DACA recipients.” – Marketing major Chris Toia
One area college that has tried to help DACA recipients pursue higher education is the University of Rochester (U of R), which offers scholarships to DREAMers and provides support through the International Service Office. The U of R also has a campus organization called UR DREAMers, composed of students who are DACA recipients. Most recently, the U of R’s student government announced that they would create an online fund to help students impacted by the end of the DACA program, according to Campus Times, the U of R’s student run news source.
St. John Fisher, however, does not have these programs, mostly because Fisher does not have a large undocumented or international student population, with only 16 undergraduate and graduate international students, according to Lake.
Student Sarah Masri would like to see Fisher aim at bringing in more DREAMer students. “It would show an initiative on our part if we accepted more DACA recipients,” said Masri.
Walling also believes that Fisher could do a better job at helping DACA recipients earn a college degree and that Fisher should become a more diverse school in general.
“The school is not as diverse as I think it should be,” said Walling. “I mean, it’s a primarily white school. So, to see some more diversity would not only be a big selling point for Fisher, but it shows the initiative.”
Toia would also like to see Fisher outreach to students with DREAMer status.
“I think DACA recipients are American citizens like everyone else,” said Toia. “They’re here under legal protection of the law. If Fisher does give grants and scholarships to other students struggling financially, I don’t see why they shouldn’t do the same for DACA recipients.”
Lake believes that Trump’s decision is unfair to DREAMers. “It [the United States] is home to them and they’re American in every single way except for one…everything but their legal status.”