President John Simon sent an email to the Lehigh community Sept. 6 acknowledging the impact of the Trump administration’s decision to repeal DACA, or the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals program.
“We are extremely dismayed that these issues will weigh on students here at Lehigh and will detract from what should be an extraordinary period in their young lives,” Simon wrote.
DACA was enacted by President Obama in 2012. Under the program, eligible minors who illegally immigrated to the U.S. were protected from deportation and could receive a two-year, renewable work permit.
Since Lehigh does not require students to disclose their immigration or citizenship status, Simon said the university does not know the exact number of students impacted by the DACA repeal.
Julio Martinez, ‘21, is one of the affected students. Born in Mexico, he immigrated to the U.S. with his parents at 13 months old and has lived in North Carolina, ever since. In his 18 years, he’s never returned to Mexico.
“A lot of people think that I think of Mexico as my home, but that’s not true at all,” Martinez said. “Ever since President Trump was elected, (this repeal) was one of his promises, so I think we all knew it was coming at some point. I think it’s an unfortunate decision because it robs a lot of young Americans from opportunities just because they weren’t born in this country.”
In his statement, Simon acknowledged the emotional toll this legislation can have on students, and Martinez said the uncertainty of his future can be overwhelming. He planned to apply for jobs in the U.S. or receive his master’s degree but said “it’s all up in the air now.”
Simon ensured that the university will contact members of the Pennsylvania congressional delegation to voice its support for immigrants in the DACA program and urge legislators to reverse the decision.
“I truly appreciate that message from the president of the university because it lets me know that I’m welcome here, and I’ll find the support I need here,” Martinez said.
The Cultural Greek Council is organizing a peaceful march called “Stand with the Dreamers” starting at the UC flagpole Sept. 7 from 4-6 p.m.