On Nov. 12, Supreme Court justices heard oral arguments in consolidation of three cases regarding the Trump administration’s bid to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also known as DACA.
The Supreme Court conservative majority signaled that it may let the Trump administration shut down the Obama-era program which granted temporary protection from deportation to roughly 700,000 young people.
The DACA program, which began in 2012, was created for students who were brought to the United States without proper documentation as children. Under DACA, they are shielded from deportation to attend school and work in the U.S., assuming they meet certain requirements and passed a background check.
DACA recipients status lasts for two years and is renewable, but does not provide a path to citizenship.
President Donald Trump announced in September 2017 that he would end the program, stating that the program was “illegal” and “unconstitutional,” according to the NPR article “Supreme Court May Side with Trump on ‘Dreamer.’
Three federal appeals courts disagreed with the Trump administration’s decisions and ruled that before policies like this be revoked, and impact so many people and the U.S. economy, the Trump administration must provide the costs and benefits of ending this program.
The Trump administration appealed to the Supreme Court and in June, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.
The National Immigration Law Center anticipates the Supreme Court will likely issue its decision any time between January and June 2020.
DACA at Gonzaga University
With a number of Gonzaga University students who are DACA recipients, this has raised some concerns within the community.
“I am definitely on edge, especially in my current status right now having my future be completely uncertain,” said George Cervantes, sophomore at GU and DACA recipient.
Asian American Union (AAU) and La Raza Latina (LRL), who in November held Dream Week to bring advocacy and attention to DACA and immigrant issues in general, are asking to see more support from administration.
AAU President Tara Phung asked that GU’s administration bring more clarity to subdue fear.
“It would be beneficial for the administration to listen to the exact concerns DACA students have and address them,” Phung said.
Jessica Morales, one of LRL’s activities directors, asked for GU to release an official statement standing in solidarity with the immigrant community.
“Not just our students here on campus but the greater community of Spokane,” Morales said.
With the ambiguity of how the ruling on DACA will turn out, GU is looking to reassure DACA recipients on campus.
President Thayne McCulloh released a statement on the DACA recision in September 2017.
McCulloh addressed the statements released by the Association Of Jesuit Colleges and University and the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities (for which he is a signatory to both), that established they will protect to the fullest extent of the law undocumented students on our campuses, to promote retention of the DACA program, to support and stand with students, faculty and staff regardless of their faith traditions, and to preserve the religious freedoms of which our nation was founded.
“Administration stance as a whole is that we are always going to protect our students,” said Kenji Linane-Booey, an undergraduate admission counselor.
At GU there are policies on campus to protect students in regards to group such as Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
“Gonzaga is an open campus; anyone is allowed to walk through our campus at any point in time,” said Linane-Booey. “We have requested that any government agency conducting business on our campus contact administration before they conduct that business.”
GU also does not create lists of undocumented students on campus in order to keep that information protected.
Students' information and privacy are protected under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which was designed to protect the privacy of educational records and establish the rights of students to review and release their educational record information.
“We are not obligated to give out information that isn’t requested through the proper means,” Linane-Booey said.
Program for undocumented students
Recent moves to benefit DACA recipients and undocumented students have been made with the development of the Undocumented Communtiy Support Coalition (UCSC), a grassroots affinity group comprised of students, faculty and staff working on informing students about their rights on campus, with their families at home and with ICE.
“We originally talked about having just an undocumented students support coalition but became quickly aware that students come from families so we broadened it to undocumented community support coalition," said Raymond Reyes, associate academic vice president and chief diversity officer. "That was important to include family and everybody that is affected in a student's life."
UCSC has an adaptive, responsive mission which states that central to their efforts of supporting the undocumented community is “Gonzaga’s belief in the inherent dignity of all human persons, with particular attention for those vulnerable and marginalized by society at large.”
The coalition was set up to act as a support system for undocumented students, but also as an action group.
UCSC puts on UndocAlly trainings, which are trainings for allies of undocumented people which give an overview of history, laws and policies impacting undocumented people, their rights, support on campus and microagressions directed toward undocumented people.
Dates for the spring semester training have not been determined but UCSC encourages students to watch Morning Mail for dates.
Additional information about the mission can be reached at gonzaga.edu/about/diversity-equity-inclusion/resources/undocumented-student-support or by attending a UCSC meeting the first Thursday of every month at 4 p.m.
Undocumented student support and services
Undocumented students who are feeling overburdened by their status are encouraged to seek support.
“The first place I would go is case management [in The Center for Cura Personalis (CCP)],” Linane-Booey said. “If a student is more comfortable via email reaching out, they can email firstname.lastname@example.org. Staff from UCSC are managing that inbox and they can email that for anything."
Students can also reach out to the joint Catholic Charities Eastern Washington and GU School of Law Immigration Clinic that is a pro bono — meaning free of charge — clinic representing various immigration legal needs from primarily low-income clients.
“We are currently taking on several different types of cases,” Megan Case, director and staff attorney of the Immigration Law Clinic, said in an email.
The clinic offers services like DACA renewals, green cards, travel documents, and humanitarian/victim petitions, among others.
Being an ally to undocumented students
For students who want ways to support undocumented students and DACA recipient, Morales encourages students to engage in conversations and become informed.
“Regardless of whether or not you know a DACA recipient, this is national news, worldwide news,” Morales said.
A statement issued by the Jesuit Assistance of Canada and The United States in 2017 encourages those who have concerns about the welfare of those allowed to work and learn under DACA to contact their members of Congress and urge them to support the continued protections for these recipients.
“What I know in my heart is this on a personal level: no matter what the government decides, no matter what the Supreme Court decides, Gonzaga, we know we have a moral and ethnical obligation to do everything in our power to have all our students feel safe and have them achieve their education goals … undocumented students are no exception,” Reyes said.