Higher Education Officials Urge Trump to Maintain DACA Program

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The American Council on Education (ACE) formally asked President Donald Trump last week to continue protecting the thousands of undocumented college students who are currently allowed to remain in the U.S. under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. ACE sent a letter signed by more than 560 college and university presidents listing the many reasons why the higher education community believes DACA should be continued.

Individuals with DACA status, known as “DREAMers,” make “immediate contributions to our society and our economy,” the letter states. Citing a recent Washington Post editorial by former Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, the letter emphasizes the moral implications of deporting the 750,000 DREAMers who consider America their home. The letter also mentions a recent study by the CATO Institute, which found that rescinding DACA would cost the U.S. billions of dollars in deportation efforts and lost revenue.

Concern over the fate of DACA students heightened after Trump promised during the presidential campaign to discontinue the program. Many colleges and universities ramped up advocacy efforts for DACA following Trump’s November victory, including, in the case of Georgetown University, hiring prestigious lobbying firms to defend the program.

Lawmakers have also demonstrated increased support for DACA by introducing a bipartisan bill to protect DREAMers. Known as the Bar Removal of Individuals Who Dream and Grow Our Economy (BRIDGE) Act, the legislation would allow individuals with DREAMer status to stay in the U.S. for three more years even if the White House were to revoke DACA.

The fate of the program remains unknown after both Trump and U.S. Press Secretary Sean Spicer gave noncommittal remarks regarding DACA in recent weeks. In an interview earlier this month, Trump stated that most DREAMers are “incredible kids” but that many are also “gang members and drug dealers.” In a recent press briefing, when asked if Trump would fulfill his promise to eliminate DACA, Spicer replied, “I think the president has been very clear about how he will address immigration as a whole, both legal and illegal.”

Instated by the Obama administration in 2012, DACA allows undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. before the age of 16 to stay in the country until the age of 35 as long as they meet certain requirements, which include maintaining a clean criminal record and earning a high school diploma. Individuals with DACA status can obtain work permits and enroll in college; however, they are not eligible for federal financial aid. Although the exact number of these students enrolled in U.S. higher education is unknown, an estimated 8,000 are enrolled in the California State University system alone.