Trump plan to end DACA faces bipartisan backlash, poses threat to students

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Michelle Phillips/Daily
Tuesday, September 5, 2017 - 2:03pm

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced President Donald Trump’s plan to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which was founded under former President Barack Obama in 2012, Tuesday morning. In a written statement, Trump called the program unconstitutional, calling for “an orderly transition and wind-down of DACA, one that provides minimum disruption.” Trump also acknowledged that the six-month delay will allow Congress to address the issue before the change takes effect.

Current DACA beneficiaries receive renewable two-year work permits through the Department of Homeland Security. Under Trump’s order, DHS will stop accepting applications; however, applications that have already been submitted will be processed, and those with current permits will be allowed to work until their permits expire.

On campus, undocumented students fear for their futures. 

William Lopez, a postdoctoral fellow in the School of Social Work, studies how communities respond to ICE raids. Lopez said that once DACA is eliminated, it is not clear what will happen to the information of the beneficiaries of DACA.

“On the one hand, very practically, we are worried about how a number of our students who are funded will continue to be funded when they don’t have social security numbers anymore,” Lopez said. “So how are they going to remain in school, mostly in graduate school, when they don’t have social security numbers, when their funding may be tied to something that needs a social security number?”

Once the program ends, the current and past beneficiaries of DACA will be vulnerable, as they have entrusted their information to the government in order to benefit from the program.

“At the time of application, many folks are worried, ‘Well what is going to happen with this information if DACA doesn’t stay around?’,” Lopez said. “So in six months, we will know, or at least have a sense of what the central government is going to do with that information. At that time, if not before, there will be time for us at the University to decide how we’re willing to and how we’re going to protect that information.”

Lopez emphasized that since the program’s inception, there has not been any official government action to end it until now. “In prior political moments, this was just illogical to attack because it was just political suicide,” Lopez said. “It looks bad. But that’s not the moments we’re in anymore.”

Several universities and colleges across the state offer in-state tuition to undocumented students regardless of DACA status, including the University of Michigan, Wayne State University, Grand Valley State University and several others.

In a statement released Sunday, University President Mark Schlissel reaffirmed his commitment to protecting all students regardless of immigration status.

“At the University of Michigan, we will continue to assess the consequences of any changes to DACA and keep our community informed,” Schlissel wrote. “I also want all students to know that I view their opportunity to study here as both the right thing to do and in our nation’s best interest.”

The Trump administration defended the move as a fair way to end the program by allowing some leeway for the transition and time for Congress to pass related legislation.

In his statement, Trump said his emphasis on immigration reform has not changed.

“Our enforcement priorities remain unchanged,” Trump wrote. “We are focused on criminals, security threats, recent border-crossers, visa overstays, and repeat violators.”

There are no current plans for DHS to share the personal information provided by DACA recipients with immigration enforcement agencies. In his statement, Trump “advised the Department of Homeland Security that DACA recipients are not enforcement priorities unless they are criminals, are involved in criminal activity, or are members of a gang.”

Both Republicans and Democrats have voiced opposition to ending DACA. Speaker Paul Ryan (R–Wis.) and other Republican leaders urged Trump not to end the program, according to the Washington Post.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D–Mich.) denounced the move to end the program in a press release, saying that Congress should react to Trump’s action.

“These young people were brought here through no fault of their own,” Dingell wrote. “America is their home and DACA has allowed them to become hardworking, contributing members of our society – offering their talents to the workforce and paying taxes that go toward improving our health care, infrastructure and other critical services.”

In Michigan alone, over 6,600 undocumented immigrants have received protection under DACA, and over 840,000 undocumented immigrants have received protection in the United States, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Following the announcement that Trump was ending DACA, Gov. Rick Snyder (R) issued a press release, which criticized the decision and emphasized the important role immigrants play in the United States.

“Many are working toward success under the existing DACA, and for the certainty of their future Congress should act quickly to authorize and clarify their status,” the press release read. "In Michigan we will continue to honor everyone's journey who has become part of our family of 10 million people, and remain the most welcoming state in the nation for immigrants and dreamers seeking prosperity, a home and a community that is accepting of their family and their desire to succeed in America."

In an emailed statement, the College Democrats at the University of Michigan voiced opposition to the move by Trump and voiced support for DACA recipients.

“President Trump's decision to terminate DACA is an act of cruel and unambiguous xenophobia,” the email read. “We stand with DREAMers and their right to live, work, and learn in this country.”

The College Republicans at the University of Michigan did not respond to requests for comment at the time of this article's publication. 

In March, the Daily interviewed several undocumented students to get a glimpse into their lives at the University of Michigan. While none of these students responded to the Daily’s request for comment at this time, many expressed fear over the potential end of DACA at the time of their interview.

One LSA student, who asked to be anonymous given their immigration status, said they were afraid for their family as well as themselves.

“Every morning you wake up, like not knowing, especially now, knowing whether or not my parents will get in trouble at work or something, especially now given that there have been a couple ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) raids in east Michigan,” they said. “That’s always been kind of scary. It’s one of those things where you still are always worried whether you come home or you get a call saying this happened. You never know.”

Another undocumented Rackham student, who also asked to remain anonymous, said the end of DACA puts an extreme logistical strain on the lives of DACA recipients.

“If DACA gets taken away, that again puts us in a situation where we can’t work, we can’t drive, we can’t board a plane, we don’t have any way to identify ourselves so think of anything that you have that is tied to your ID, like going out and opening a bank account or buying liquor or tobacco,” they said.