The White House announced Tuesday it will end the program that defers deportation for undocumented immigrants who entered the country as minors, leaving dozens of Loyola students in uncertainty.
Former President Barack Obama established the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in 2012 with an executive order. Under DACA, those who came to the United States before the age of 16 and were aged 31 or younger before the order was enacted — called “Dreamers” — were able to apply to stay to work or study on a two-year renewal basis. Now, the termination of the program, announced by Attorney General Jeff Session Sept. 5 will stop any new applications.
DACA’s removal will operate on a sixth-month delay. Those who do not currently have DACA status will not be able to apply for a new application, but currently accepted applications will still be reviewed, according to a Department of Homeland Security memorandum on the program. Those whose DACA expires before March 5, 2018 must immediately apply for renewal by Oct. 5. Since DACA works on a two-year basis, those who are granted renewal will be protected under DACA past the March deadline, according to Loyola’s vice president for government affairs, Phil Hale.
The earliest, then, that those with DACA will see their status expire is March 5.
However, this doesn’t mean immediate deportation for undocumented students, according to Hale, since the priority for deportation is undocumented individuals who have committed a crime.
About 140 Loyola students are undocumented, with about half of those receiving DACA, according to Hale. But Hale, who advocates on Loyola’s behalf in governmental matters, said those numbers are only “guesstimates” since these are just the students who’ve informed Loyola about their status. There could be several more students affected by the removal of DACA.
“I came [to the United States] when I was [1 years old], so I wasn’t even fully aware that I was undocumented until my high school years,” said a junior undocumented Loyola student who studies social work. “It feels like my freedom is being stolen from me because I had no say in this. I didn’t break the law. I didn’t decide to come over here.”
For another undocumented Loyola student, President Donald Trump’s decision to end the program was a complete surprise.
“[DACA] is just a paper, it’s just a permit, but with that permit I have my drivers’ license, I have my social security, I have my work permit,” said the undocumented Loyola student who asked her name be kept anonymous because of her immigration status. “It didn’t really hit me that I was given those opportunities until right now when that’s all going to be taken away.”
Trump’s decision comes after months of uncertainty, during which time his stance on the policy has changed repeatedly. During the 2016 presidential campaign, he promised to overturn DACA. Trump changed his stance after being inaugurated in January 2017, saying he would treat DACA recipients with “heart.”
The female undocumented Loyola student said she sees Trump’s cancelling DACA as a betrayal to those whom he promised he would be protected.
“[Trump] is doing this because he’s not a good president and he doesn’t deal well with pressure,” she said. “While he himself has said, ‘We’re going to protect the dreamers, we’re going to have a heart for them,’ doing this is totally going against those words.”
The six-month delay in the rescinding of DACA allows an opportunity for Congress to turn the program into law — Loyola’s main focus moving forward.
Hale will be in Washington, D.C. this week in an attempt to convince legislators to make DACA’s protection a permanent fixture. He said he’s already spoke with political figures regarding DACA’s removal, including Congressman Mike Quigley, representative of Illinois’ 5th District, which includes Chicago’s North Side.
Hale said the goal now is to pass the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act — an act first introduced in legislation in 2001 that would provide similar protections to DACA — or another similar piece of legislation. Hale said it’s crucial the law be bipartisan in order to get it passed through Congress.
“[We’re going to] do everything we can to get that law passed,” Hale said.
Shortly after the White House’s announcement, President Jo Ann Rooney wrote a statement of support for undocumented students encouraging students to contact their Congress members.
“It defies understanding that we as a country would squander the wealth of talent, commitment and grit exhibited by this extraordinary group of people who we know as our colleagues, our classmates and our neighbors,” Rooney wrote. “These young individuals are woven into the fabric of our communities and have a basic right to contribute to our society.”
Provost and Chief Academic Officer John P. Pelissero and Provost Margaret Faut Callahan of the Health Sciences Division also emailed students a joint statement of support Tuesday reflecting Rooney’s stance and offering more information and resources.
“Loyola is a community committed to our students regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, or immigration status—a central tenet of our Jesuit, Catholic mission,” the statement said.
As part of its resources, Loyola will host a workshop on the rights of undocumented immigrants Sept. 12 at 4 p.m. in the Corboy Law Center.
Loyola has long shown its support for undocumented students, with Rooney signing several statements of support, including one written by the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities in November. While Loyola is not an official “sanctuary campus,” the statement promised to protect undocumented students “to the fullest extent of the law.”
Student Government of Loyola Chicago and the Latin American Student Organization founded the Magis scholarship — which provides five undocumented students with full tuition each year — in 2015. The scholarship is partially funded by a $2.50 fee built into Loyola students’ tuition.
Hale said while demonstrations and rallies are significant ways to raise awareness of the importance of DACA, now is the time for students to take further action.
“The important thing now is for members of Congress to hear from their own constituents because it’s … one thing for them to be aware that this is a national issue, but if at the same time they are not hearing from their constituents, they very likely won’t take action,” Hale said. “So the most important thing now is for students to contact their member of Congress, whomever it is, either side of the aisle, and say ‘We need to pass the DREAM Act or a similar piece of legislation.’”
Additional reporting by Christopher Hacker.