President-elect Donald Trump has promised to expel undocumented immigrants during his time in the Oval Office. While he hasn’t set forth concrete plans yet, the implementation of some sort of mass deportation could affect 2 to 3 million immigrants in the United States.
Of those affected, immigrants in colleges and universities across the country may be subject to deportation if the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, is repealed. Trump has promised to repeal it.
President Barack Obama created DACA to allow 1.9 million individuals who are undocumented to have the opportunity to continue their educations on work in the United States. These 1.9 million students “came to the U.S. before the age of 16, have lived in the U.S. continuously for at least five years, and have graduated from high school or obtained a GED.”
President John Simon, along with more than 350 college and university presidents of both public and private institutions, recently signed a letter in support of DACA. His signature to support all students in their pursuit of education should send a strong message that we as a university are dedicated to providing educational equity.
It is not known whether undocumented students attend Lehigh because that information is not public, but Simon’s signature on the letter encourages the continued education of students who qualified for DACA at colleges and universities across the country.
“The presidents are urging business, civic, religious and non-profit sectors to join them in supporting DACA and undocumented immigrant students,” the letter reads. These students, who often did not have a choice in their migration to the United States, have managed to gain admission to institutions of higher education while facing “tremendous social, financial and legal barriers.”
They also cannot qualify for federal or state-based financial aid. Their enrollment in a college or university is a testament to their work ethic and perseverance, and they should be allowed to complete their education.
The sentiment that these students are taking away opportunities from other students neglects the fact that they possibly offer different, diverse perspectives in an educational system that is overwhelmingly homogeneous and white.
In the first line of Lehigh’s Principles of our Equitable Community, it states, “Lehigh University is first and foremost an educational institution, committed to developing the future leaders of our changing global society.” This line both acknowledges that we live in a global society while educational resources to “future leaders,” not just those who Trump believes should have a chance to receive an education.
The next line reads, “We recognize and celebrate the richness contributed to our lives by our diverse community.” The diversity of our community — and any community on a college campus — can be enriched by DACA students.
Several schools, such as Swarthmore College and University of Pennsylvania — Trump’s alma mater — have gone a step further and declared their campuses to be sanctuary campuses. There is also a push by students at Lafayette College for their president to declare their college as a sanctuary campus. This status means university officials will not share information with immigration officials voluntarily and only will do so if official paperwork is filed. Some officials at these universities have also said they will not ask for a student’s immigration status.
While Simon has not declared Lehigh a sanctuary campus, his defense of DACA affirms the institution’s dedication to protecting the educational pursuits of all students. This signature sets a positive precedent that those who want to contribute to the Lehigh community in a positive way are welcome.