University reacts to DACA rescission

Students protest in defense of DACA on the Diag Tuesday.

Students protest in defense of DACA on the Diag Tuesday. Buy this photo
Julia Lawson/Daily
Tuesday, September 5, 2017 - 8:43pm

William Lopez, a postdoctoral fellow at the School of Social Work, noted many undocumented immigrants and their families were betting against the possibility of a rescission when they made the choice to register for DACA.

"Two, four, six years ago, whenever folks applied, they were thinking, 'If I give the government this information, will it be dangerous for my family?'," he said. "And we, as advocates and those with citizen privilege, of course encouraged them to do so, believing it would be safe to do so, and now we find ourselves in this position of wondering, is it safe?"

Currently, there are almost 800,000 people in the United States with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status, and some are students at the University of Michigan. Many at the University are now worried Immigrations and Customs Enforcement will begin targeting students once their status expires.

Laura Sanders, co-founder of the Washtenaw Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights and a lecturer at the School of Social Work, said she, too, wasn't optimistic about any legislation Congress would pass regarding the program.

"The ball is in Congress's court to act, but they haven't acted in the past in a very positive way, which is what initiated the DACA executive order by Obama in the first place," she said.

The Trump administration announced Tuesday morning it was ending DACA, the Obama-era immigration policy that provided a renewable, two-year deferral from deportation and work permit eligibility to undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country as minors.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions stated Tuesday the program "is being rescinded," but the administration will provide a six-month window in which it will continue to renew the DACA status of individuals whose status is about to expire, meaning individuals will begin to lose their protected status permanently on March 5, 2018. President Donald Trump said Congress should use the window to come up with an additional plan.

"I have a great heart for these folks we're talking about,” he said. “A great love for them — and people think in terms of children, but they're really young adults. I have a love for these people and hopefully now Congress will be able to help them and do it properly."

Khaalid Walls, communications director of ICE for the Northeastern Region, which includes Michigan, said current ICE policy was to generally avoid sensitive areas like schools.

"Current ICE policy directs agency personnel to avoid conducting enforcement activities at sensitive locations unless they have prior approval from an appropriate supervisory official or in the event of exigent circumstances," he said. “The locations specified in the guidance include schools, places of worship and hospitals.”

According to the Frequently Asked Questions page of the Department of Homeland Security's website, DACA individuals' information would not be “proactively provided” to ICE, “unless the requestor meets the criteria for the issuance of a Notice To Appear or a referral to ICE under the criteria set forth in (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services’) Notice to Appear guidance.”

"This policy, which may be modified, superseded, or rescinded at any time without notice, is not intended to, does not, and may not be relied upon to create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable by law by any party in any administrative, civil, or criminal matter," the page states.

Susan Reed, managing attorney for the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center, said in an interview with Michigan Radio people should still expect an increase in deportations as a result of the change.

"We heard Secretary Sessions say that upon termination of the program, people with DACA would not be priorities for deportation," she said. "Which sounds meaningful, but then he said that if at any point they encounter an immigration officer, they would be issued a notice to appear in immigration court. So I would interpret that as meaning there aren’t any immediate plans to, say, take the DACA file and go knock on everyone’s door."

Already, ICE activity is relatively high throughout Washtenaw County and southeastern Michigan. WICIR operates an "urgent responder" telephone line for people who need immediate assistance with immigration issues, and it has received over 800 calls in the past nine years, according to Sanders.

"Half of them have involved detainment or deportation of at least one adult, and we know that hundreds of children have lost their primary parent," she said. "We also know that thousands of children have lost a providing adult."

The reason for the high level of activity, she explained, was the proximity of the Canadian border.

"A lot of people think of immigration enforcement as happening down on the southern border, but we're within 100 miles of the northern border, and we have very robust immigration and customs enforcement teams,” she said. “All of them have quotas that they are supposed to meet of people who they are supposed to detain and deport.”

In an email to students Tuesday night, University President Mark Schlissel criticized the Trump administration's decision, saying the University was working with other institutions and organizations to pursue legislation allowing the program to continue.

"We are deeply disappointed in today’s announcement that the administration will end DACA, the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program," he wrote. "We want to assure everyone in the University of Michigan family that we are working to understand all of the implications of this change, the timelines we face, and how members of our community may be affected."

University spokeswoman Kim Broekhuizen said the University would do what they could legally to protect students’ identities.

"The University would not proactively share non-directory student information with ICE or other immigration enforcement officials, unless required to do so by public records laws, a lawful subpoena or warrant or judicial order," she said.

Lopez noted it was additionally important that the University have policies in place backing their statements.

"We don't just come to our department because we are going to be kind and use a particular set of words to make you feel welcome — this is certainly important — but we also want policies in place that defend people should they be pursued by immigration enforcement on our campus," he said. "One conversation that needs to happen is, to what extent is campus law enforcement going to be involved in these events?"

Although it is not yet clear what orders the federal government may make regarding enforcement of the rescission, Diane Brown, spokeswoman for the University’s Division of Public Safety and Security, said the University would continue following current policy.

"DPSS will follow an existing practice of not asking students (or others) for immigration status. The exception will be for people who commit crimes and are being processed," she wrote in an email to the Daily. "Our protocols also do not include partnering with ICE, though of course we will adhere to any lawful orders."

In a Facebook post Tuesday night, Central Student Government President Anushka Sarkar, LSA senior, and Vice President Nadine Jawad, Public Policy senior, issued a statement to students with DACA status, giving them instructions on how to apply for renewal if they were eligible.

"To undocumented and DACAmented students in the Michigan community: we stand in solidarity with you and we will fight alongside you to protect your right to an inclusive and safe education at the University of Michigan," the post read.

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