The Penn community navigated many immigration policy changes this year, one of the biggest being Trump's announcement to discontinue the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program by March 2018.
The program, which was enacted as an executive order under former President Barack Obama, protects 790,000 "dreamers" who entered the country without proper documentation as children. Following Trump's announcement in September, various student protests broke out on Penn's campus against the DACA repeal, and University administrators condemned the White House's decision.
As the new year rapidly approaches, those who are classified as dreamers at Penn now face uncertain futures and new concerns over the discontinued program. Even though the Penn administration has expressed support of its DACA students, dreamers have no concrete path that would prevent them from being deported.
To take stock of how the DACA repeal has affected those on campus, here is an overview on how Penn's community has reacted to these new policies in 2017:
Penn student groups organized multiple rallies protesting the repeal of DACA
The White House's decision to eventually discontinue protections for these dreamers was met with multiple protests and student activism at Penn calling for the reinstatement of DACA.
A week after the announcement, a group of freshmen linked arms on a rainy gray afternoon holding up signs and chanting “education not deportation,” calling on the University to do more for affected students. In October, Penn Democrats hosted a panel to discuss the rights of undocumented students and the legality of Trump’s rescinding of DACA. Penn for Immigrant Rights also organized a walkout as part of a series of nationwide rallies in 30 schools across 10 states in November.
Most recently, the Lambda Theta Alpha Latin sorority honored DACA recipients as a group of "stars" at their annual charity banquet.
Philadelphia and Penn-affiliated groups provided assistance for DACA recipients
Local Philadelphia organizations also stepped in to help dreamers and took action to provide resources for those affected by the repeal of DACA.
The Philadelphia Office of Immigration Affairs partnered with nonprofit advocacy groups to provide information about the DACA renewal application.
In mid-September, University administrators also held an informational session to express support for students and answer anonymous student questions. Quickly following suit, Penn Law’s Transnational Legal Clinic and the Greenfield Intercultural Center hosted a DACA renewal clinic later in September during which Penn Law School students worked with practicing lawyers to help dreamers to renew their DACA status.
Penn alumni also got involved, helping dreamers affected by DACA's repeal. The "urgency" of the repeal prompted 2013 Penn Law graduate Jeremy Peskin and immigration attorney James Pittman to change the policies of their tech company Borderwise by allowing DACA recipients to pay what they can when using their service that streamlines the process of filling out green card applications.
University administrators condemned DACA's repeal — but some students called for more
Following Trump's announcement on DACA's repeal, Penn administrators like Penn President Amy Gutmann quickly condemned the legislation.
In the week prior to Trump's announcement, Penn President Amy Gutmann released a letter urging Trump, a 1968 Wharton graduate, to allow DACA recipients to remain in the United States. She echoed this sentiment in a statement published in the hours following Trump's announcement, referring to that Tuesday, Sept. 5, as a "heartbreaking day for our country."
But students called on the University administration to take more tangible steps to support dreamers.
In a statement to Gutmann drafted by two Penn Law students and approved by the Undergraduate Assembly as well as the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly, students asked Penn administrators to provide or arrange for a pro bono legal fund for any DACA recipient challenging a deportation order.
But after nearly three months, the administration has yet to release any public information suggesting that Penn would establish such a legal fund or provide other resources for students to easily access legal services to discuss their futures when DACA is ended.
As 2017 draws to a close, the future of dreamers at Penn remains in limbo as they face the expiration of the DACA program. The University will be looking to monitor federal policy changes in 2018.