Carnegie Mellon reaffirms commitment to inclusivity in light of attack on Dreamers
President Donald Trump decided to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, this past week, making the announcement through his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, thus fulfilling one of many campaign promises. The president left a six-month window before officially ending the protections from deportation the program affords and allowed holders of work permits through DACA that expire through March 5 of next year to renew them before Oct. 5.
DACA was created by President Barack Obama in 2012 via an executive order because of Congress’ persistent inaction on immigration reform. The program allowed undocumented people under 31 years old in 2012 who came to the U.S. as minors (usually brought by parents) and who met certain criteria — like being a high school graduate or being enrolled in school and not committing a crime — to come out of the shadows and apply for work permits and other benefits without fear of immediate deportation. It did not, however, provide a path to citizenship for these young people, commonly known as “Dreamers.”
The rationale was that it was cruel to deport these young people, who did not come here of their own volition, away from the only home many of them have ever known.
While the administration has stated that Dreamers are not the primary deportation targets, it has not lessened the worries of Dreamers and immigration advocates because of the hardline stance against illegal immigration that the president has taken in the past.
Because DACA was created via an executive order and addressed a controversial topic, it became a lightning rod for criticism from many on the right, even from some who agree with the premise of the program. Aside from the premise, many of them believe that President Obama overstepped executive authority in passing immigration reform without Congress.
On the other hand, President Trump’s decision to end the DACA program has also become a lightning rod for criticism from Democrats and some Republicans, many of whom called out the decision as inhumane, contrary to our values, and a move that uses vulnerable young people as pieces in a political game. It prompted hashtags online such as #DefendDACA and #HereToStay, as well as several rallies and protests in front of the White House and in different cities across the nation.
President Trump’s announcement has prompted many college presidents, politicians, and business leaders to release statements in support of Dreamers, and Carnegie Mellon was no exception. Acting Carnegie Mellon president Farnam Jahanian joined these other leaders and released an open letter urging Congress to “act quickly to find a solution for the children and young adults whose futures are in jeopardy.”
While Carnegie Mellon has a fairly low population of DACA students, Jahanian called the ending of DACA, an action that could “deny even one of our students a Carnegie Mellon education and membership in our community”, a “deeply distressing” thought. He described Dreamers as a population with “so much to offer” whose potential deportation “is morally troubling to all of us” in the campus community.
“So let us take this occasion to restate: A diverse and inclusive community is the foundation for excellence in learning, research, creativity and human development,” Jahanian writes in the statement.
He goes on to detail the commitments the university has previously made in regards to immigrants. First, the university does not discriminate based on immigration status. Second, University Police will not ask about immigration status in routine policing. Third, Carnegie Mellon will not provide information on students’ immigration status to federal agencies or other third parties unless it is legally required to do so. Fourth, the school will provide legal counsel to help students understand their obligations should federal agencies need to contact them. Jahanian also refers students to Linda Gentile if they need to inquire more information about their own statuses.
“We will do all within our power to help ensure every student can finish their [Carnegie Mellon University] degree,” he states.
He promises more updates on the website for the International Office of International Education and held a question and answer session this past Thursday, Sept. 7.
He concludes by reaffirming the school’s commitment to its students, including those who are DACA recipients. “As a community, we stand united and determined to support DACA students and members of our community from all walks of life, across the globe,” he writes.