Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia cosigned a letter urging Congress to safeguard the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Temporary Protected Status programs.
DeGioia joined 400 other university presidents pushing for a legislative solution that protects the recipients of the programs. DACA grants immigrants without documentation who arrived in the country as children protection from deportation, and TPS provides a legal path for immigrants fleeing ongoing armed conflict or environmental disaster to live in the United States.
The Feb 4. letter continues the university’s public support for the two programs. Georgetown launched a lobbying campaign to protect DACA that included letters to members of Congress soon after President Donald Trump’s administration announced in September 2017 that it would revoke the program.
Trump’s executive order ending DACA originally gave Congress six months to find a legislative solution before the program terminated. Congress failed to find a solution, but a lower federal court held up Trump’s decision. The Supreme Court has yet to rule on DACA, leaving the program in limbo.
Congress could protect the program through passing legislation the childhood arrivals, commonly referred to as Dreamers. While the Senate passed legislation in 2013, it failed to pass the House. More than 700,000 people are currently protected from deportation under DACA.
The politics surrounding DACA have brought about uncertainty for the program’s recipients, according to Arisaid Gonzalez (COL ’21), co-president of Hoyas for Immigrant Rights.
“It’s having to deal with my status and having to deal with academics at Georgetown and social life, so it brings a whole other factor into being able to not just be mentally stable, but also emotionally,” Gonzalez said.
The university provides on-campus resources for students with documentation, such as free legal services through Catholic Charities Immigration Legal Services, which provide pro bono legal assistance for thousands of immigration cases each year, and on-campus advising, as well as through public advocacy.
The university is dedicated to supporting students without documentation, and DeGioia’s action is just the most recent example, according to Associate Vice President for Federal Government Relations Katy Button.
“Georgetown has been and always will be deeply committed to advocating for Dreamers,” Button wrote in an email to The Hoya. “We are proud that President DeGioia joined more than 400 university presidents encouraging a resolution for DACA and TPS holders and continues to be a vocal advocate for Dreamers as a founding member of the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration.”
While many undocumented students such as Gonzalez are pleased with DeGioia’s letter to Congress and the ongoing support that Georgetown offers them, there is still concern over whether or not congressional action in favor of DACA recipients is plausible in the near future.
Amid the government shutdown last month, Trump offered a legislative compromise that included three years of protection for the dreamers in exchange for $5.7 billion in funding for a border wall. The proposal was quickly shot down by conservative and liberal groups.
Gonzalez remains pessimistic after the 12 years of inaction on the DREAM Act, which first proposed protection for the group in 2001. Though DeGioia’s letter is a positive sign, a legislative solution for the recipients seems far away, according to Gonzalez.
“I highly doubt that something will happen, but it doesn’t hurt to have some hope,” Gonzalez said.
The letter comes less than six weeks into the the 116th Congress and was addressed to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).
The effects of programs protecting DACA recipients extends further than many commonly think, according to Gonzalez.
“If something does start to happen with deportations or an increase of border patrol or building a wall, it’s going to start to affect students on campus, faculty, workers, and it’s just going to be a domino effect,” Gonzalez said. “You may not feel impacted now, but you may have a friend that you don’t know is undocumented, because they’re just too scared to come out.”
Associate Director for Undocumented Student Services Arelis Palacios said students are encouraged to utilize the resources provided by Georgetown and to reach out with any concerns regarding immigration status.
“Georgetown will continue making resources available and accessible to undocumented students across our campuses,” Palacios wrote in an email to The Hoya.