U.Va. should throw its weight behind DACA students

Regardless of what a Trump administration does, undocumented students should be protected at our school

More than 750 students, faculty and alumni have signed a letter requesting the University affirm its commitment to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, thereby protecting current University students. The program offers students who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children relief from deportation if they have registered with the federal government. The two professors and members of the CIO DREAMers who sent the letter to University President Teresa Sullivan cite President-elect Donald Trump’s threat to undo the program as an impetus for action. While it may be premature to speculate on any changes made by the incoming administration, the University has an ethical obligation to protect current members of its community and reaffirm the policies in place that aid in the completion of their degrees.

The letter also lists a series of proposals the University should enact right away to better secure the safety of DACA students. The major requests include maintaining current financial aid policies, declaring the University a “sanctuary campus” and providing an administrative office to counsel DACA students. The current tuition agreement under DACA allows undocumented students to pay in-state tuition. Without this provision, the students would be subject to international student fees, which are significantly higher. If this policy were to be continued, as requested in the letter, the University would ease many of these students’ financial anxieties while avoiding an additional financial burden.

Whether and how the University and its peers can provide sanctuary without falling afoul of federal law is a much larger question. The University may not be authorized to offer legal sanctuary to students from members of law enforcement or Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The University is, however, more than able to provide legal, emotional and financial counsel to those impacted.

Those who qualify for DACA were brought to the United States through no fault of their own. As students, they actively contribute to the University and local communities and economies. They should not be punished, and the University has a duty to provide them equal access to education. Our University can surely afford this small act of generosity to the next generation of productive citizens.

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