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US: ‘precarious’ future for DACA policy

US stakeholders are concerned about the precarious future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, delegates at a recent online event heard.

The 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the DACA program was unconstitutional but maintained the district court's stay, Photo: Unsplash

Thousands of young immigrants-many of them college students-have been protected from deportation since DACA's inception in 2012

On October 5, the US court ruled that the DACA program is unconstitutional but maintained a rule that permits current enrollees to renew their status. Those who have DACA will keep it and renewals will continue to be accepted and approved. However, no new applicants will be able to receive DACA benefits at this time.

Following the ruling, speakers on the panel emphasised DACA recipients’ contribution to communities and the economy, and how Congress needs to urgently act to enact legislative change.

“This is not just a higher ed issue, this is an entire national issue”

The immigration policy permits some individuals with unlawful presence in the US who were brought to the country as children to receive a renewable two-year deferred action from deportation and obtain a work permit in the US.

As opposed to the proposed DREAM Act, DACA does not provide a path to citizenship for recipients.

Thousands of young immigrants – many of them college students – have been protected from deportation since DACA’s inception in 2012, allowing them to pursue their education, work legally in the US, and serve in the military.

“The implications of the ruling create even more vulnerability for DACA and its legal future, and also creates more pressure for Congress to really act and create what should be what many have called a permanent solution and durable status for those with DACA,” said Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, director of the Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic at Penn State University.

“This is not just a higher ed issue, this is an entire national issue,” emphasised Félix Matos Rodríguez, chancellor of City University of New York and member of the Presidents’ Alliance.

“We have to continue to show our solidarity and our support to our students, faculty and staff who have DACA and also those who might be either waiting to apply or in the application process and to commit to our continuing support for them.”

Felicia Russell, associate director at Cal Lutheran University and a DACA recipient, stressed the importance of pursuing higher education.

“I would like to use this platform to… promote the necessity to continue to pursue higher education, because while [DACA] could be gone tomorrow, our education is permanent,” Russell said.

“I challenge us to consider how we think about this group while also working to bring permanent change for all of us.”

Gaby Pacheco, director of advocacy, policy, and development at TheDream.US urged for continued advocacy from higher education leaders and communities.

“[Undocumented students] enrich our classrooms and have proudly crossed the graduation stages with degrees in hand in critical needs area such as health care, education [and] social services,” Pacheco noted.

“Our alumni today are parents, homeowners, community leaders and many, like Felicia, are colleagues working as professors, administrators, and college staff,” she said. “We have seen how all of us, including our communities and society, have benefited from them.”

The comments were made at the rapid response briefing on the fifth circuit ruling on the legality of DACA meeting, hosted by the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration on October 10.

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