In the throes of an increasingly xenophobic national climate, President Martha Pollack once again furthered her support for international students by issuing a letter to President Trump on Friday urging him not to terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
“On behalf of Cornell University, I write to share my deepest concern with news reports indicating that you intend to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program,” Pollack wrote, citing Trump’s intention to announce his final DACA decision on Tuesday.
Her letter comes a day after she reversed a decision that would have eliminated the Foreign Student Employment Program. Many international students who are employed under this program expressed concern that the program was going to be eliminated.
DACA — a five-year, Obama-era initiative that began in 2012 — allows immigrants who came to the U.S. when they were younger than 16 or who were under the age of 31 at the program’s conception to defer their deportation and apply for working permits, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Trump is under pressure to rescind the program from 11 Republican state officials, who claimed in a letter in June that the memorandum that instated DACA in 2012 is “unlawful,” protecting “otherwise unlawfully present aliens.”
The Republican politicians set a hard date of September 5, 2017 for Trump’s decision on whether or not to rescind or renew the program. In the letter they said that if the president renews the program, they will follow up with a lawsuit that is currently in progress in southern Texas.
Politco reported on Sunday that Trump has likely already made up his mind to cut the program, according to White House officials. Though nothing is certain until his official announcement, there has been discussion of employing a 6 month buffer in which Congress can configure something to replace it. This compromise comes at the request of some Republican lawmakers — including House speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), who has reportedly spoken out against the elimination of DACA.
It remains unclear whether or not Trump, who has waited until the last minute to make the call, officially plans on cutting the program. But citizens who rely on DACA – sometimes referred to as “Dreamers” – are holding their breath, as The New York Times reports that they will likely know of DACA’s fate on Tuesday.
In her defense of DACA, Pollack cited Cornell’s post-Civil War origins and its motto of “any person, any study,” adding that students who rely on DACA are an “integral part of our university community.”
“They were brought to our country before they had a choice in the matter, have grown up in our culture, and are succeeding here, despite challenges and obstacles that you and I can only imagine,” the letter read.
The Cornell DREAM Team, a Cornell organization for undocumented students whose mission is to “empower undocumented students through advising and providing a support network,” commended Pollack for her gesture of support.
“We applaud President Pollack for showing her strong commitment to undocumented students on campus,” they said in a Facebook post on Friday. “Dreamers need support from administrators in stressful times like these. We look forward to working alongside president Pollack on making Cornell a more accessible and supportive university for all its students regardless of status.”
Tarannum Sahar ’19, president of Cornell Welcomes Refugees, also expressed contentment with President Pollack’s letter to Trump.
“I’m glad to see that President Pollack has expressed her concern through this letter sent to Trump and I hope that the University will continue to stand by all the students who will be affected by the termination of the DACA program,” she told The Sun.
Pollack stands in company with her contemporaries; Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Duke presidents all issued similar letters earlier in the week, according to The Atlantic.
The battle for the preservation of DACA is also nothing new to Cornell. Last November, President Rawlings joined over 600 university and college presidents in signing a statement to support DACA in the same month that he affirmed Cornell’s support for DACA students after 2,000 students, faculty and alumni petitioned for Cornell to become a “sanctuary campus.”
But Cornell has been aware of the possible end of DACA for months. The Sun reported in April that Cornell administrators issued a statement that DACA graduate students would “continue to receive funding for the complete length of time offered in their admissions letters,” and that fellowships would be provided for these students if DACA was indeed abolished. The statement also added that Cornell would attempt to use “DACA-like” criteria for admissions and financial aid policies for undergraduate students.
As Cornell DACA students await Trump’s announcement this week, Pollack, following in her predecessor’s footsteps, maintained that students who rely on DACA are “incredible kids” whom she has “watched blossom” under the program.
“It would be more than a shame if you act to extinguish so many bright and productive futures just as they are getting started,” she wrote to Trump. “Instead, I encourage you to work with Congress to pass legislation to allow DACA students to remain in our country, at home, where they belong.”