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Trump administration seeks to repeal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

Credit: Paola Mathus/ Credit: Paola Mathus/

In June 2012, on the 30 year anniversary of a Supreme Court case that banned states from charging undocumented children tuition at public schools, then-President Obama announced his signature immigration program known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA.

DACA allows eligible undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as minors — often because they were brought here by their parents — to apply for a renewable two-year deferral of deportation proceedings, to apply for a work permit, and in some states, to receive certain government benefits such as in-state tuition at public colleges or the ability to apply for a driver’s license. However, it does not provide legal status or a path to citizenship — it only allows some undocumented people to come out of the shadows and temporarily live without fear of deportation.

To be eligible for the DACA program, an immigrant must have arrived before the age of 16 and before June 2007, be enrolled in school, have a high school diploma, or be honorably discharged from the military, be younger than 31, and not pose a threat to national security (i.e., no felony or significant misdemeanor convictions and fewer than three misdemeanor convictions).

Republicans during the Obama presidency have tried to defund DACA because they believe it is executive overreach, but in practice this is difficult to do since the application fees form the bulk of DACA funds. Now, with President Trump’s inauguration and Republicans controlling both branches of Congress, the DACA program faces a significant risk of being repealed. Many on the program, known as DREAMers, named after a different immigration program that grants conditional and permanent residency to undocumented immigrants on certain conditions, are worried that under President Trump, they will be deported from the only home many of them have ever known.

In the months since the election, the presidents of over 550 colleges and universities across the U.S. have collectively signed an open letter in support of DACA, including Carnegie Mellon President Subra Suresh.

“Since the advent of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in 2012, we have seen the critical benefits of this program for our students, and the highly positive impacts on our institutions and communities”, the letter declares. It further argues that many DREAMers have actively and positively contributed to both campus communities and wider society, and that they are the “best of America.” “This is both a moral imperative and a national necessity,” the letter states.

While we do not yet know how President Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress will change DACA or whether the program would be ended, or what will happen to the DREAMers if the program ends, Carnegie Mellon’s press release states that “[as] an international community of scholars, [Carnegie Mellon] will continue to do all it can to support students, faculty, and staff, including those who are most vulnerable, consistent with local and federal laws.” Meanwhile, Carnegie Mellon’s Division of Student Affairs and Office of General Counsel have conducted meetings with various student groups to hear their questions and concerns about this issue and to take these voices into account while creating university policy.

More details will be published as the current administration unfolds and related university policy is developed.