In protest of the Trump administration’s recent action on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, Lawrence University has signed an amicus brief along with more than 50 other U.S. universities.
DACA was a federal government program created under the Obama administration in 2012. It was intended for people who had been brought to the country illegally at a very young age. Through no fault of their own, these “Dreamers” as they are often referred to, grew up living in fear of the Department of Homeland Security. They were forced to live in secrecy, to avoid being deported from the U.S., the only country they knew. DACA made it possible for these people, who are Americans in every way except documentation, to come out of the shadows.
DACA worked almost like a scholarship, with an incredibly intense application process. Applicants were vetted for any criminal history or other questionable activity, with the hope to gain the right to live and work in their home country. They must have either completed school or military service to be considered. If they passed, their deportation was suspended for two years, with the chance to renew.
This year, the Trump administration promised to shut down DACA, possibly affecting 800,000 people throughout the country. On September 5, President Trump signed an executive order rescinding the policy. This decision put thousands of Dreamers at risk of deportation, who only revealed their “illegal” status because of DACA’s existence. It would potentially create huge quakes in communities where Dreamers live, and in the companies, universities, factories, schools, etc. where they work every day. The administration gave Congress six months to come up with a different program, or else leave nothing in DACA’s place.
With this in mind, Lawrence signed an amicus curiae with 50 other colleges and universities. Amicus curiae means “friend of the court,” or a document signed in support of a lawsuit. The original lawsuit was written by the University of California system, against the Department of Homeland Security. This group of universities, which come from all over the country, and include all sorts of institutions, believe that getting rid of DACA and leaving nothing in its place would hurt people in their systems. According to them, Dreamers make up these universities’ administrations, faculty, staff and students, and are essential to making them great.
But it isn’t just about employees. The press statement on the amicus curiae, which was released on Monday, says that “even for school without DACA students, supporting DACA is central to the institution’s core mission of educating people to help them realize their ambitions and potential and contribute to the community, the country, and the world.”
The University of California lawsuit is not alone. Similar suits have been signed by other groups of universities, such as one by Ivy League Schools, and another by religious institutions. There are also lawsuits signed by large, influential tech companies in the Silicon Valley like Microsoft.
Congress will most likely come up with an alternative to DACA before the six-month deadline is up, but how any changes will affect Dreamers remains unclear. But even in the worst case scenario, where Congress does not create an alternative, and the dozens of lawsuits do not work, University President Mark Burstein says that Lawrence policy will not change. The existing policy is that Lawrence does not take citizenship status into consideration for admission or financial aid, nor will the university expose citizenship status of any student or faculty member to the federal government.
For President Burstein, the decision to sign the amicus curiae was an easy one. “In the U.S.,” said Burstein, “we are a community of almost entirely immigrants. I believe immigration strengthened our society and strengthened our economy. As president of Lawrence, I believe access to education is a principal value and a right.”