Penn joined nearly 800 colleges and universities in a letter to Congressional leaders on Thursday urging a bipartisan, “long-term legislative fix as soon as possible” to protect current recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
In September, President Donald Trump announced his intention to repeal DACA, an Obama-era policy which protects young undocumented immigrants and students from deportation, and gave Congress a six-month window to replace it. Penn President Amy Gutmann has previously called the end of DACA, which protects a number of Penn students, “heartbreaking,” and called on Congress that month “to act promptly to pass bipartisan legislation” to protect recipients of DACA.
The letter was organized by the American Council on Education’s Protect Dreamers Higher Education Coalition, which includes the Association of American Universities, an organization Gutmann previously led.
The letter argues that if Congress does not act, “we will be shutting the door to an entire generation of individuals who seek to contribute their best to America,” and that people brought to the United States as children “are today Americans in every way but immigration status.”
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, one of the direct recipients of the letter, has previously stated that Congress will be able to come up with a permanent solution within the six-month window given by the White House. Minority Leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, also recipients of the letter, claimed to have struck a deal with the White House which would extend the protections given to DACA recipients, although the White House has denied this claim.
This plea from higher education organizations follows widespread uncertainty on college campuses across the country regarding the status of undocumented students. On Penn's campus, this uncertainty has been marked by student protests against DACA’s repeal and informational sessions held by campus administrators, including the upcoming “Campus Conversation.”
Following the election of President Trump, who promised to “immediately terminate” DACA during his campaign, Gutmann announced in a University-wide email, in response to questions about the status of students receiving DACA protection, that Penn would remain a “sanctuary” for undocumented students and not allow immigration officials on campus without a warrant. Several student leaders expressed their discontent with these comments, suggesting that it was unclear what exactly it meant for Penn to be a ‘sanctuary.’
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