by Kristina Vakhman
In a press conference on Feb. 16, President Donald Trump gave no definitive answer when asked about what he would do with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also known as DACA, stating that it is “a very, very difficult subject,” because “you have these incredible kids — in many cases, not in all cases.”
DACA was enacted through an executive order signed by President Barack Obama in 2012. Under the program, children who entered the United States illegally before the age of 16 have the chance to stay in the U.S. to gain an education or a job.
Renewable protection from deportation is given to these individuals every two years under the conditions that they have no criminal record and are actively pursuing their studies or employment.
According to Pew Research, “more than 750,000 undocumented immigrants have received work permits and deportation relief” as a result of the program.
Central Connecticut State University is just one of a growing number of institutions moving towards the status of a “sanctuary campus” that could face these repercussions.
A sanctuary campus pertains to colleges and universities that adopt policies to protect undocumented students in a similar manner that “sanctuary cities” protect undocumented immigrants.
In December of 2016, President Mark Ojakian of Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU) wrote in a statement that he was “working with campus leadership, outside legal counsel and national immigration attorneys to understand all options and gather necessary information to make an informed set of decisions about the best path forward.”
Converting CSCU into “sanctuary campuses” was one of the choices President Ojakian mentioned being up for discussion.
He was not ready to officially designate CSCU with “sanctuary” statuses, saying at the time that it is “necessary to understand the impact of such a designation and whether it is appropriate for our system and all of our 85,000 students.”
CCSU Faculty Senate members also expressed their support, conveying in a December meeting resolution that they side with “all individuals on campus to exercise and enjoy in safety and security all of the rights and privileges appropriate to their status as students, staff, or faculty regardless of their immigration status.”
“We’re going to deal with DACA with heart,” said Trump. “The DACA situation is a very, very — it’s a very difficult thing for me because, you know, I love these kids. I love kids. I have kids and grandkids.”
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump threatened to revoke DACA.
His position has changed several times on the issue, with his stance in the Thursday press conference being another example of a pivot.
However, he has followed through on his vow to punish “sanctuary cities,” places in the United States that shield undocumented immigrants from deportation, by signing an executive order that upholds extreme immigration enforcement.
Despite court precedent leaving little room to force local governments to change, the Trump administration is calling for nationwide cooperation, promising to strip “sanctuary cities” of federal funding if they disobey the executive order.
Consequently, higher-education establishments that act as “sanctuaries” for undocumented students could be affected.
Currently, Connecticut legislators are working towards passing a bill that would grant undocumented students financial aid. It was struck down two years ago.