Middlebury Responds to Trump’s DACA Threats

Last+November%2C+students+rallied+in+front+of+Old+Chapel+in+support+of+undocumented++and+DACA-mented+students

Michael O'Hara

Last November, students rallied in front of Old Chapel in support of undocumented and DACA-mented students

By ELAINE VELIE

In the wake of President Trump’s decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the college has continued to publicly and internally support DACA-mented and undocumented students.

College president Laurie L. Patton and chief diversity officer Miguel Fernández did not mince words in their defense of DACA-mented students in a Sept. 1 email to students.

“We are writing to state clearly that no matter what the [Trump] Administration decides to do, we will stand by our students, protect their rights, and continue to provide them an outstanding education,” they said. “We are proud of the accomplishments of our DACA students and will continue to support them in every way we can.”

President Obama created DACA through an executive order in 2012. The order grants legal status and protection from deportation to undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as minors. The email from Patton and Fernández came just days before President Trump announced his decision to end the program.

The protections provided by DACA will officially end on March 5, 2018. President Trump gave Congress a six month ultimatum to introduce legislation to reinstate the protections DACA provides. If Congress does not pass legislation, DACA-mented individuals may lose their legal status and face deportation.

In addition to publicly denouncing the actions of the Trump administration, the college will expand the legal resources available to DACA-mented students.

“Once we learned that the DACA program would be phased out, the college arranged for an attorney who is experienced with providing advice to DACA-eligible students to offer telephone and videoconference consultation appointments before the October 5, 2017 renewal deadline arrives,” said Kathy Foley, director of international scholar and student services.

Given the unpredictable future of many immigration policies in the Trump-era, the college plans to expand the resources available to students.

“The reason that this is a little different is that there has been a change within the government, so we feel as though some additional resources are potentially necessary to help students navigate,” said Fernández, the point person for DACA-mented and undocumented students on campus. “We hope to bring someone to campus to talk, later on, in person.”

The administration has continued to vocally pledge its commitment to DACA-mented students. A letter signed by Patton and other Vermont college presidents on Sept. 21 recognized the contributions of DACA-mented students to American society and Vermont college communities.

“We support swift action by Congress to bring forward legislation to establish DACA permanently in law,” said the letter. “We also support Vermont in joining fourteen other states in a lawsuit challenging the plan to terminate the DACA program….We stand united with DACA-mented students.”

The administration’s vocal support of DACA-mented students began last year with a series of all-student emails following the election of President Trump. In January, the college announced that DACA applicants to the class of 2022 would be considered with the same need-blind admissions policy afforded to American citizens.

“The administration has been very verbal in expressing their concern for DACA-mented students, and we are pleased with the promises they have made,” said a member of Alianza, a student group active in providing a community for DACA-mented students.

The student requested anonymity given the current political climate surrounding immigration issues.

The college is not required to share students’ immigration status with the federal government. However, the college has a established a system through which student volunteers are made available to speak with those hesitant to discuss their immigration status with administrators.

“One of the big challenges is wanting to work and help, and at the same time, not out the individuals, so how to best reach out and at the same time maintain privacy and protection. We want to maintain the safety and privacy of our students,” said Fernández.

In an email sent to all students on Tuesday, Miguel Fernández urged students to “be a visible ally.”

“I think it’s an important piece to make every attempt to make every student feel welcome and part of the community, so that takes work,” said Fernández.

Trump’s order has put the fate of over 800,000 DACA beneficiaries in the hands of Congress, but Fernández expressed optimism about the power of everyday citizens.

“I think the most important thing that we can do, as individuals and as a community, is to try to press our representatives to turn it into law. I’m confident that with enough pressure, with enough push, we can make this happen.”

The Campus will continue reporting on this topic as the situation develops.