On November 12, 2019, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in 3 cases that will determine the future of DACA, the “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” policy created in 2012 by the Obama Administration and subsequently rescinded in 2017 by the Trump Administration. The policy provided some minimal legal status for undocumented young people who came to the United States as young children. The Trump order rescinding the policy was challenged in three federal courts in California, New York and D.C., and in each case the Trump order was enjoined from being put into effect, thus extending the protections of DACA during the appeals process. After the losses at the lower court levels, the defendants and the Justice Department appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States. The Supreme Court will hear the arguments on November 12 and a decision could come early in 2020.
Trinity is one of 165 colleges and universities signing an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief in support of our DACA students. You can read the entire brief online by clicking on this link.
The brief was organized through The Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, an advocacy organization that has been actively working on behalf of Dreamers at Trinity and across the country. The Alliance works with numerous other advocacy organizations to provide information and resources to protect Dreamers.
I have written often about our Trinity Dreamers and the many political and social issues that confront them and all of us who are committed to working for justice. My article last November in the Chronicle of Higher Education entitled “The Dream Act Remains a Distant Dream” framed the political realities of the Supreme Court case and the dismal chances for any federal legislation — one year later, those chances are even worse than dismal as no legislation is currently getting passed in Congress as the Republican Senate stonewalls every bill from the Democratic House. Congressional inaction on DACA and a range of other critically important issues is simply immoral at this point, a serious breach of the responsibilities of the legislature to enact the laws our society needs.
In 2017, I wrote in insidehighered.com “From Anger to Action for Dreamers” immediately after the Trump Administration rescinded DACA. At that time we still held a glimmer of hope for some kind of political compromise.
Trinity Dreamers are among the more than 120,000 DACA recipients attending college today. We work in partnership with TheDream.US that provides scholarships for Dreamers whose undocumented status makes them ineligible for federal financial aid and many states also prohibit state support for Dreamers. Thanks to the great Don Graham (an honorary Trinity alum!) and many other benefactors, we are able to support more than 100 DACA students who come to Trinity with very high ambition and tremendous resilience. Like Dreamers in college nationwide, these students at Trinity are high achievers, student government leaders, on the Dean’s List and in Phi Beta Kappa and other honor societies in great number.
As the amicus brief points out, Dreamers nationwide contribute substantially to their colleges and universities in direct ways such as leadership and academic engagement, and indirectly through contributing to the robust diversity of our campuses. Their witness is galvanizing for so many other students, faculty and staff as we hear their stories and reflect on the journeys they have taken to arrive at this moment in their lives. On September 24, Trinity hosted a panel with two of our own DACA students as well as students from Georgetown and Catholic Universities, and they shared heroic, albeit painful, stories of their lives in flight from oppression and the fears they have today. The courage and fortitude of these students in the face of the senseless injustice and threats of the current administration is breathtaking.
I cannot predict what the Supreme Court will decide in this case, but I know from long experience and the political climate of the times that we must be prepared for a result that will cause more trauma and pain. We cannot step back and say we’ve done all we can, and then turn away. We must continue to strive for ways to achieve justice for the Dreamer students we know and love, their families, and also for the thousands more who are suffering so much, particularly the immigrants and refugees at the border.
To our Trinity Dreamers I say now, and always: we walk with you! You are not alone! We will be by your side for as long as we can be on this journey, and we will never relent in our advocacy for justice for you and your families.
Somewhere along the line this country lost its big heart and sense of hospitality; a nation that once was known for welcoming those who fled oppression became the oppressor. Someday there will be a moral reckoning for the corrupt political pandering that seeks votes through caging children, separating families, confining immigrants in horrific and abusive conditions, and jeopardizing the education and livelihoods of young people for whom America is the only home they’ve truly known. We who are committed to social justice as a matter of faith must never relent in our commitment to confront evil, to raise our voices for those who suffer greatly at the hands of demagogues and authoritarian governments.
The final paragraph of the amicus brief offers this compelling summary urging the Supreme Court to uphold DACA:
“DACA is enlightened and humane; it represents the very best of America. It provides legal certainty for a generation of hard-working, high-achieving, and determined young people who love this country and were raised here. Once at college or university, DACA recipients are among the most engaged students both academically and otherwise. They work hard in the classroom and become deeply engaged in co-curricular activities, supporting communities on and off campus.Moreover, our DACA students are deeply committed to giving back to their communities and, more broadly,the country they love. We should not be pushing them out of the country or returning them to a life in the shadows. As institutions of higher education, we see every day the achievement and potential of these young people, and we think it imperative for both us and them that they be allowed to remain here and live out their dreams.”