Statements from Cornell and Ithaca College presidents on DACA stress support for students

The presidents of Cornell University and Ithaca College have both issued unequivocal statements on the Trump administration’s decision to roll back DACA protections. Both expressed concern for the move and support for students.

DACA is the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, a policy enacted in 2012 by which the Federal government said it would not pursue young people who were brought to the United States as children, offering a renewable two-year period of deferred action on deportation and work permits.

Dr. Shirley Collado is Ithaca College’s ninth president. Photo by Adam Baker courtesy of Ithaca College.

“I write not merely to express my hope that the right path will prevail,” said Ithaca College president Shirley M. Collado in a statement. “Today, I write also on behalf of Ithaca College’s leadership to express condemnation of the decision to end DACA; to voice support for the rights of the Dreamers; and to assure you that the college will participate fully in the advocacy efforts within higher education to ensure protection for these young people.”

“Most of the people protected by DACA have lived in the United States most of their lives,” Dr. Collado says. “These ‘Dreamers’ are attending school, or working, or both. They are contributing actively to our nation’s social, intellectual, and economic wealth. They are Americans in all but documentation.”

Cornell’s 14th president, Martha E. Pollack, at her inauguration ceremony last month. 14850 Photo by Mark H. Anbinder.

In a letter sent to President Trump, Cornell president Martha E. Pollack writes, “DACA students are an integral part of our university community. They were brought to our country before they had a choice in the matter, have grown up in our culture, and are succeeding here, despite challenges and obstacles that you and I can only imagine.”

Dr. Pollack followed up with a message to the Cornell community, expressing concern about “very real impacts” faced by DACA college students, who might “lose protections from deportation and permits to work in the United States.” She says the president’s order “also severely restricts the movement of DACA students, who will no longer be able to re-enter the country should they leave.”

Cornell Law School faculty member Stephen Yale-Loehr, an immigration law expert, says the Department of Homeland Security’s contention that the announcement that DACA will end in six months unless a legislative solution is found is the “least disruptive” approach is “balderdash.” Yale-Loehr says, “The least disruptive alternative would have been to let the DACA program continue. I and over 100 other law school professors signed a letter stating that DACA is a lawful exercise of prosecutorial discretion.”

“Much attention will focus now on Congress to see if it can enact a legislative solution for the so-called DREAMers,” says Yale-Loehr. “But litigation may also ensue. The Attorney General of Washington State has already threatened a lawsuit, and other class action challenges are also possible. Even if such litigation eventually fails, it could complicate or delay a legislative solution.”

Both Cornell and Ithaca College have said they will safeguard student privacy, and that while they will honor legal subpoenas and warrants, neither institution plans to “function as an agent of the federal government regarding enforcement of federal immigration laws,” as Cornell’s statement puts it.

Cornell goes a step further, saying it will continue to consider DACA students in their “domestic” need-based financial aid pool, and continue to provide funding for graduate students using fellowship funding instead of an assistantship if needed. The university will also “make on-campus housing options available for students who are concerned about traveling abroad during school breaks or the summer,” according to Dr. Pollack’s statement.

Both presidents say they and their institutions will actively seek a resolution that will continue to protect students who currently enjoy protection under DACA.

“Ithaca College is home to students, faculty, and staff who hold true to respecting all people, no matter where they—or their parents—were born,” Dr. Collado adds. “And as a daughter of immigrants myself, I couldn’t be more proud to be part of such a community.”

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