Ithaca College President Shirley M. Collado recently announced the college filed an amicus brief along with 164 other colleges and universities urging the Supreme Court to pass legislation to protect Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
Created in 2012 by former President Barack Obama, DACA temporarily shielded certain undocumented youth from deportation and allowed them to obtain work permits. In 2017, President Donald Trump’s administration terminated authorizations for new DACA applications. In 2016, approximately 40% of DACA recipients — also known as Dreamers — were high school or college students. Out of the approximately 32,900 Dreamers in New York state, 25% were college students in 2016.
Collado is a founder of the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, which coordinated the amicus brief. The organization is composed of an alliance of higher–education leaders dedicated to increasing awareness of how immigration policies affect campuses and communities.
“For me, this is not a political issue,” Collado said. “It is a human rights issue. And our central mission as a college is to support and advance the life of students. That’s why I decided to be part of this movement of higher–education leaders and institutions having a stake in this decision.”
The brief defends the continued existence of DACA and highlights the stories of impacted recipients. It also states DACA has allowed undocumented immigrants opportunities to pursue higher education.
“Through no choice of their own, Dreamers were raised and educated in this country as Americans,” the brief said. “Yet, until DACA was announced in 2012, they lived under the threat that the government might one day come calling and remove them from the country that has become their home.”
Oral arguments on several filed lawsuits are expected to be heard before the Supreme Court on Nov. 12, with a decision expected no later than June 2020.
The lower courts have also been blocking President Donald Trump’s intention to rescind the policy since 2017. In June, the House of Representatives passed the American Dream and Promise Act of 2019, the latest version of the DREAM Act, which could potentially give undocumented immigrants with Temporary Protective Status (TPS) a pathway to permanent legal status for 10 years.
Jaclyn Kelley-Widmer, assistant clinical professor of law at Cornell University, said amicus briefs help to illuminate the nuances of certain issues for the Supreme Court.
“I think sometimes without the brief there’s not that kind of human component,” Kelley-Widmer said. “The parties are going to boil their arguments down to the most salient legal issues that don’t always bring up the actual people that are impacted by that opportunity.”
Sarah Spreitzer, director of government and public affairs at the American Council on Education, said that if both the Supreme Court and Congress are unable to pass legislation protecting Dreamers, it would put thousands of students at risk of deportation.
“I think you would have tens of thousands of recipients who would have to stop their education and return to a country they may not even know,” Spreitzer said.
Collado said Dreamers add richness to the experiences of other students at higher–education institutions. She also said that although Ithaca College does not know the percentage of Dreamers at the school, the count is small. The college’s admissions process does not ask if students have DACA status.
“We’re really excited that Ithaca College gets to be part of the voice, but essentially in higher education, we’re making the critical argument of the impact of DACA not being protected,” Collado said. “We believe very clearly, as institutions of higher education, that we are further enhanced and strengthened by the experiences of DACA students being present on our campuses.”
Cornell University sophomore Stella Linardi is a DACA recipient. She moved to the U.S. from Jakarta, Indonesia, with her family when she was 3 years old.
“There was a lot of religious persecution against Christians and also a lot of anti-Chinese rhetoric in Indonesia,” Linardi said. “And I know my mom has been caught in anti-Chinese and anti-Christian raids two or three times before, and she didn’t want that for us.”
She said that around nine years ago, her family was denied asylum in the U.S. after receiving a removal order. Her father returned to Indonesia, hoping that Linardi and her younger brother would have better lives in the U.S.
“My father thought that if he left, it would be safer for us,” she said. “He’s the head of the family, so immigration officers would look for him first. It was a self–sacrificial sort of thing. My mom, my younger brother and I stayed behind.”
In 2016, Linardi became a Dreamer. DACA has temporarily protected her from the removal order.
“[Applying for DACA] was a lot of missing school to go to a lawyer’s office to figure out the application process,” she said. “But to reapply, Cornell hooked me up with a professor here, and they paid for my application fee, which was $500.”
She also said DACA has opened a number of educational and work opportunities for her that she did not have previously.
“It really helps me because my family’s low income, and my mom was a single parent, so I could put some money and some food on the table,” Linardi said. “I worked as a waitress at a restaurant. It also helped me with my early college application process. A lot of colleges don’t take an undocumented student, or they charge them international fees, which I wouldn’t be able to afford because my family is so low income.”
Ithaca College offers support to Dreamers through New Student and Transition Programs opportunities like Ithaca Firsts for first-generation students, but there is no specific DACA support on campus.
“Rather than singling out DACA students, we really felt that it was important to normalize the experience and simply create very intentional paths that a student can take to get the support that they need,” Collado said. In Tompkins County, the Immigrant Services Program provides immigrants with legal services and assists people with limited English proficiency and employment. The program can also help undocumented immigrants obtain DACA protection.