After a federal judge’s ruling
against the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, it may take a multipronged approach to aid young undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.
“Now is the time to do more,” said Miriam Feldblum, a co-founder and executive director of the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration.
I called up Feldblum to ask about next steps for colleges after U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen ruled DACA unlawful and blocked it from approving new applicants:
Lobby Congress. The U.S. House passed a bill earlier this spring giving legal protections and a path to citizenship to DACA recipients and other young undocumented immigrants, known as Dreamers. But the Senate has yet to act, and a legislative path may be a rocky one — President Obama created DACA by executive order because of congressional inaction.
Feldblum said there are two possible congressional options: A bipartisan group of senators is working on legislation. And DACA language could be included in the budget bill, where it wouldn’t be subject to a filibuster — although it could also run afoul of legislative rules.
Colleges should encourage lawmakers to “act as expeditiously as possible by whatever means possible,” Feldblum said. Already, more than 400 university presidents, CEOs, and civic leaders have signed a letter calling on Congress to take action.
Work with the Biden administration.
During the Trump administration, higher-ed groups like the Presidents’ Alliance frequently sought to block rules and other administrative action
detrimental to international and undocumented students. Now, the regulatory process could be used to help such students.
The Biden administration has indicated it plans to issue new rules on DACA, although hasn’t said what approach it would take. Jose Magaña-Salgado, Feldblum’s colleague and the alliance’s director of policy and communications, said one possibility is that the administration could decouple DACA from work authorization, so losing one wouldn’t mean losing the other. Colleges should be prepared to comment and lobby on proposed rules.
File suit. The Biden administration plans to appeal Hanen’s ruling. But the Texas judge isn’t the only jurist to weigh in on the program — late last year, a federal judge in New York ordered the Trump administration to accept DACA applicants. The conflicting decisions could fast-track the cases to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Colleges may play a part of future litigation, possibly through friend-of-the-court briefs.
Change state policy. Some states prohibit undocumented students from receiving lower in-state tuition rates, while other define eligibility narrowly, freezing out many students.
Feldblum said colleges can urge their states to adopt policies that expand in-state tuition and financial aid to undocumented students or that allow graduates to obtain professional licensure regardless of immigration status.
A higher-ed immigration portal
put together by the Presidents’ Alliance and its partners has detailed information about current state-level policies.
Provide more campus support. Thousands of students were in the process of applying for DACA, with the expectation that it would make them eligible for in-state tuition in their home states. With the ruling, a college education may suddenly be unaffordable.
Colleges can work to find alternative sources of funding for such students. For example, colleges may be able to offer certain non-employment-based funding to students, such as practicums tied to the classroom.
But financial assistance isn’t the only way colleges can help, said Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, director of the Center for Immigrants’ Right Clinic at Penn State Law. Colleges should expand and better promote the support services they have for undocumented students, including legal and mental-health services.
What’s your campus doing in response to the DACA ruling? Email me — you can use the same address to send me feedback, suggestions, and story ideas.