Nearly 100 standing faculty members signed a letter to Penn President Amy Gutmann encouraging the protection of undocumented immigrant students at Penn.
Faculty from all four undergraduate schools signed the letter, which highlighted the passage of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an immigration policy implemented in 2012 to grant undocumented immigrants who entered the country before their 16th birthdays and before June 2007 temporary protection from deportation.
“DACA students attend the University of Pennsylvania and we benefit from their presence on our campus,” the statement said. “President-elect Trump is likely to either cancel DACA or allow it to lapse.”
The letter, which was sent to Gutmann on Tuesday, comes just one day after President Barack Obama 1968 Wharton graduate Donald Trump, not to “endanger” the immigration status of students protected by DACA.
The faculty recommended that Gutmann communicate to political leaders how significantly DACA students contribute to academic life, ensure that undocumented students continue receiving financial aid and fellowship stipends allocated to them under DACA, provide work opportunities for DACA students to support themselves and communicate to the academic community how the University intends to support undocumented students now and in the coming years.
College senior and external chair for Penn for Immigrant Rights Daisy Romero said that she was moved by the initiative taken by faculty. She said the letter made her feel significantly safer on Penn’s campus and bodes well for a petition that PIR is currently planning around DACA. Students at Columbia University and Harvard University have already launched similar petitions and garnered thousands of signatures.
Romero added that while undocumented students at Penn are grateful for the financial and academic support they already receive from the administration, she hopes that Gutmann will respond to this letter with a public announcement of the University’s commitment to undocumented students.
While both Romero and College junior Pamela Fuentes are open about their status as undocumented, there are many other students on campus who are not. It is important that these students hear from the administration, Romero said.
When The Daily Pennsylvanian reached out to Gutmann for a response to this letter, Vice President for University Communications Stephen MacCarthy replied with a written statement.
“Dr. Gutmann is a strong supporter of DACA and is deeply committed to ensuring the success of students at Penn, regardless of their immigration status. She has been a national leader in support of the Dream Act and the place of immigration in our society, and her support for that is unwavering,” the statement read.
Romero said that PIR also plans to highlight the issue of mixed-status families to the administration. There are students at Penn who are not undocumented themselves, but have family members who are. They could endure financial and emotional consequences if DACA is repealed, Romero said.
Another issue the administration needs to address is the future employment status of undocumented students, said Director of the Latin American and Latino Studies Program Tulia Falleti, one of the signees, in a statement.
Many undocumented students at Penn have work-study jobs which are partially funded by federal agencies, meaning they face financial consequences if DACA is deferred or repealed, she said.
“We want to make sure that the administration is ready to deal with all these complex issues if DACA is taken away,” Romero said. “In the case that this policy is removed, we want to be ready and not panicking last minute trying to figure everything out.”