Students and community members march up Ho Plaza at the Cornell DREAM Team's protest against the recision of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program on September 8th, 2017.

Cameron Pollack / Sun Senior Photographer

Students and community members march up Ho Plaza at the Cornell DREAM Team's protest against the recision of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program on September 8th, 2017.

March 6, 2018

Students Call Congress Members to Urge DACA Action Amid University Reassurances

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Cornell graduate and undergraduate students participated in a national higher education call-in day on Feb. 28 to urge Congress members to vote for a bipartisan solution that protects Dreamers from deportation.

The event invited students to call their representatives on Wednesday despite the Supreme Court’s Feb. 26 decision to uphold an injunction on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival suspension while a lower court takes up the case, nullifying the Mar. 5 deadline set by the president in September.

The call-in was organized by FWD.us, an organization founded by tech industry leaders to advocate for immigration reform.

“We had over a dozen individuals participate [in the call-in]….” Kevin Graham, Cornell’s assistant director of undocumented/DACA student support, told The Sun. “We had students from the DREAM Team, we had other students from other groups participate as well and we had staff members who took the time to make a call.”

The DREAM Team is a student advocacy group that works to support undocumented students at Cornell.

Given the uncertain political and legal future of DACA, Graham outlined a policy of continued support from the University. “In terms of the future, this institution … will continue to support its undocumented and DACAmented student population, as well as hold events that promote a sense of inclusion,” Graham said.

Since the Trump administration’s decision to suspend DACA applications and renewals, many higher education institutions have voiced opposition to the move and support for affected groups.

A letter signed by 700 college and university presidents in Sept. 2016, including then Interim President Hunter Rawlings III, said, “to our country’s leaders we say that DACA should be upheld, continued, and expanded.”

According to current Cornell policy, individuals covered by DACA are eligible for financial aid under the same rules that apply to domestic students. A statement from Martha Pollack in September affirmed that those policies would continue even if DACA were to end, and outlined additional commitments to DACA students.

“All currently enrolled undergraduate students who had DACA status will continue to be considered in the ‘domestic’ financial aid pool (need-based, meeting full demonstrated need) for the remainder of their Cornell undergraduate program,” the letter said.

The statement went on to say that “while Cornell representatives, including the Cornell University Police Department, will comply with lawfully issued subpoenas and warrants, it is neither the university’s practice nor expectation to function as an agent of the federal government regarding enforcement of federal immigration laws.”

According to a statement from Hunter Rawlings, graduate students with DACA would lose their federal work authorization, and their funding commitments would be fulfilled by fellowship dollars if DACA were to end.

Barbara Knuth, senior vice provost and dean of the Cornell Graduate School, also encouraged graduate students and faculty to take part in the call-in event, and touted Cornell’s early and sustained support for DACA and undocumented students.

“We’re very much committed to doing what we can and to keeping informed about these issues,” Knuth said in an interview with The Sun. “Back in the fall, when the declaration was made that DACA was ending, Cornell immediately said we will provide Cornell DACA-like route to admissions and financial aid.”

Since the Supreme Court’s latest decision, Congress and the White House have not revealed much on immigration. The Ninth Circuit Court is expected to rule on the Trump administration’s challenge to DACA this summer.