Utah College Presidents Want DACA Replacement

By Lockhart, Ben; Cortez, Marjorie | Deseret News (Salt Lake City), September 7, 2017 | Go to article overview

Utah College Presidents Want DACA Replacement


Lockhart, Ben, Cortez, Marjorie, Deseret News (Salt Lake City)


By Ben Lockhart and

Marjorie Cortez

Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY - The presidents of Utah's eight public colleges and universities, along with the state Commissioner of Higher Education, called on Utah's congressional delegation Wednesday to "pursue a lasting, long-term solution" to immigration policies that allow "all students to be able to realize their dreams."

The open letter to congressional leaders comes the day after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the Trump administration was rescinding work permits and protections from deportation extended by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Sessions said they had been unconstitutionally put in place by the Obama administration.

The program benefits undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. when they were 15 or younger and have met other requirements, including a clean criminal history, allowing them to work in the country legally.

The educators' letter takes note of Utah colleges' long practice of "providing access and opportunity for all of Utah's students, no matter their background or circumstance."

A decade before the deferred action program was created, the Utah Legislature in 2002 passed legislation that extended in-state tuition college rates to students who graduated from a Utah high school after attending the school for three years.

"This year, over 1,200 students will qualify for in-state tuition at Utah's public colleges and universities under these circumstances," the letter states.

Since the creation of DACA, "these students have been able to work to help pay for college - making their dreams more achievable - and also to contribute to Utah's workforce after graduation," the letter continues.

The letter also reflects on the Utah Compact, signed in 2010, which outlined principles to guide the immigration debate, urging federal solutions and policies that did not separate families. Nearly 5,000 people signed the document.

Between the Utah Compact and the in-state tuition law, "Utah leaders have shown foresight in addressing these difficult issues. It is imperative that we continue to make it possible for all students to be able to realize their dreams," the letter states.

"We urge you to support a legislative solution as soon as possible to enable all students who have grown up in the United States to continue contributing to their communities and classrooms in ways made possible by higher education."

Also Wednesday, Salt Lake City School District Superintendent Lexi Cunningham issued a statement to students' families, saying the district "embraces and supports all of our students, regardless of background, race, ethnicity, or any other factor."

"During these uncertain times, we appreciate the support of our teachers and our parents in having conversations with students about current events and reassuring them that school will always be a safe space," Cunningham's message stated, later adding, "don't be afraid to talk to children about recent events that appear in the news and on social media."

The district adopted a resolution earlier this year indicating it would protect students from any inquiries by immigration authorities as much as it legally can.

Utah college student Patricio, who asked that his last name not be used, told the "Doug Wright Show" on KSL NewsRadio on Wednesday that the deferred action made it possible for him to work and pay his way through school.

"It opened up a huge door of opportunities. I was able to work. ... I was able to get scholarships, I was able to get loans," he said. "I was able to get a Social Security Number. I was able to buy my first car, which I am the proud owner of. I was able to get and start my career of my choice and plan on moving forward."

Putting the program in limbo has changed everything, Patricio said.

"You have to understand the anxiety that 800,000 people just like me are going through every single day ever since the Trump administration decided that they were going to take a look at DACA," he said. …

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