By Gil Horner
On Tuesday, September 5, President Donald Trump issued an executive action to terminate the immigration policy enacted by President Obama in 2012 that would offer undocumented immigrant minors, referred to as Dreamers, a two year period of deferred action from deportation as well as work permit eligibility.
The Dreamers must have entered the United States before the age of 16, have lived in the United States continuously since June 15, 2007, have a mostly clean criminal record, currently be a student, have a high school diploma, or be a veteran.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) has provided a safety net for upwards of 800,000 young immigrants, many of whom have grown up and serve important roles in the United States. A group of Sewanee students have taken initiative to ensure that the Dreamers –– many of them students and young professionals –– are represented at both the local and the national level.
Congress has been given a six month time frame to devise a new plan to manage the population who will be displaced upon full implementation of the DACA repeal.
Upon learning of the new Trump administration directive, student Francisco Diaz (C’18), who serves as the president of the Hispanic Organization for Latino Awareness (HOLA), says his anger and confusion fueled him to connect with his peers and HOLA advisors to “see what all this meant.”
Diaz reached out to Abby Colbert, Assistant Counsel for Global Affairs and Visiting Instructor of Politics, for help. Diaz says she played a significant role in piercing the fog of uncertainty that lay thick following the order for DACA rescission.
Colbert explained at an HOLA meeting that Dreamers with their DACA expiring between October 5, 2017 and March 5, 2018 have until October 5 of this year to reapply. Upon reapplication there is a $495 renewal fee, and while a waiver can be applied-for, Diaz believes “it would be too risky to depend on that and not be able to renew their DACA in time because they do not have their money.”
In brainstorming fundraising tactics that fit the short timeline, members of HOLA first sold Chick-Fil-A, but then came up with the idea of holding a phonathon that would provide an opportunity for people to contact representatives of their home state through a simple text message or a phone call. Diaz says that in doing this “we hope by March 5th our voices will be heard and DACA will be here to stay.”
The phonathon took place outside the duPont Library and in McClurg Dining Hall during the third week of September. Students from partner organizations Adelante, the Board, the Community Engagement House, and Sewanee Young Democratic Socialists volunteered to assist Sewanee students in the process of contacting state representatives. Stickers that read “End Ignorance Not DACA” were sold for $1 a piece, and the proceeds will go towards organizations working directly with immigrants whose DACA status is threatened.
HOLA member and Community Engagement House member Tieta Keetle (C’18) regards this an “incredibly personal issue even if you are not a recipient.” If prevalence of stickers are any indication of support, the on-campus sentiment seems to in agreement with Keetle.
The University has publically communicated support for DACA and its recipients. On February 2 Vice-Chancellor McCardell announced that he joined the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU) in supporting DACA, signing a statement published by Pomona College that calls for DACA to be “upheld, continued, and expanded” on the basis of a “a moral imperative and a national necessity.” The statement, now signed by over 700 college presidents and chancellors, concludes that DACA recipients “represent what is best about America, and as scholars and leaders they are essential to the future.”
Just two weeks after Trump’s announcement the Dean of Students Office published a list of frequently asked questions along with other resources for students who are undocumented or of DACA status.
Maria Trejo (C’20) was recently featured in a an article published to the news site AL.com entitled “DACA uncertainty affects thousands in Alabama” as a perfect example of a DACA recipient: a heavily involved college student shocked by the notion of deportation after growing up in the United States
For Dreamers throughout the nation, Trump’s order is daunting.What will come to be the reality in March of next year is unknown. Trejo believes the conditions for justice are simple, stating that “it is very important for DACA recipients and other undocumented immigrants to not live in the shadows.”
To support DACA, text “RESIST” to 504-09. You will be asked to provide your home address to find your representatives, and a fax will be composed on-the-spot via ResistBot to encourage DACA support in legislation.