September 4, 2017

TRUSTEE VIEWPOINT | Reaffirming Cornell’s Commitment to Dreamers

Print More

Today, the Trump administration is set to announce a decision that could put an end to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The Obama administration enacted DACA in 2012 both to protect individuals who entered the United States as minors from deportation and to provide them with work permits. The program allows eligible individuals to defer deportation and legally reside in the U.S. for two years, subject to renewal. Since 2012, the federal government has approved nearly 800,000 renewals, according to CNN.

In the weeks leading up to this anticipated announcement, we have seen numerous reports and studies cite the potential effects of annulling DACA., a pro-immigration reform organization co-founded by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, found that eliminating DACA could result in the monthly loss of 30,000 work permits as recipients’ statuses expire. The Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank, projected that ending DACA could cost the U.S. economy hundreds of billions of dollars over the next decade. CAP also reported that New York State stands to lose millions of dollars annually if DACA recipients lose their permits.

While it is important to understand and promulgate such economic defenses of the program, especially when it comes to convincing those less receptive to the intrinsic benefits of DACA,  the Cornell community cannot forget, belittle or ignore that Dreamers comprise and integral part of our Cornell fabric.

No matter what fate the Trump administration decides for DACA, the University must impart trust in the Cornell community that it will remain a sanctuary campus for Dreamers despite any outside pressures. When students, faculty and staff members protested this March for protection against deportation, raids and fear, it is this last protection, from fear, that encapsulates what we  must work hardest to thwart during these unpredictable times.

Fear from the 10 state attorneys general who have provided the Trump administration with an ultimatum to act upon DACA, potentially provoking a decision detrimental to the livelihoods of those in our community; fear of at-will raids by ICE; fear of being pulled out of classes, losing one’s job, home or position in American society. These fears have loomed large since November of 2016.

Not all of us face these fears day in and day out, but as members of the Cornell community, we can at least learn to acknowledge them and recognize that we may only be a degree of separation apart from a friend, family or faculty member who is currently facing them.

Over the last 10 months, campus organizations, students, faculty and staff members have advocated for explicit assurances that Cornell will protect them during this fearful time. Petitions and resolutions supporting sanctuary status for Cornell called on the administration  to denounce acts of violence and hate speech, guarantee funding upon the discontinuation of DACA, assure student safety by preemptively refusing to release students’ private information and provide free legal assistance for DACA students. Cornell has since endorsed these resolutions, and so Dreamers and their allies have placed their trust in the University to protect them. In reading materials for a law school seminar entitled “Law and Trust in Government,” I found one scholar’s explanation of trust to be thought provoking.  He argues that trust is encapsulated in the interest of the trusted, and thus, whether those who hold distinct roles in an organization will be trustworthy correlates with whether it is in their interest to do what is expected or trusted of them to do.

We can trust in Cornell because we have leaders who have an interest and desire to see Dreamers develop, inspire and continually strengthen the Cornell community. The evidence lies in President Pollack’s letter to President Trump, urging him to “allow DACA to continue as it has” for the past five years and recognizing that DACA students “have grown up in our culture, and are succeeding here, despite challenges and obstacles that you and I can only imagine.” Further evidence lies in the University’s immediate response to the violence and hate speech in Charlottesville, along with last week’s decision against eliminating the Foreign Student Employment Program.

While well over a century old, Cornell’s motto of creating an institution where any person can pursue any study rings loud and clear today. Regardless of today’s announcement, University administrators will remain committed to protecting our University’s Dreamers.


Dara Brown ’13 is a second-year student at Cornell University Law School. She is the graduate student member of the Board of Trustees. Trustee Viewpoint appears alternate Tuesdays this semester. 

  • Man with Axe

    One point that you don’t address that needs to be brought up every time DACA is discussed: Obama did not have the authority to do this. He said so himself many times prior to exercising a power he didn’t have.

    If you live by the pen and the phone, you die by the pen and the phone.

  • George Glass

    How about Cornell show some concern for the dreams of poor American children with college aspirations?

    With every comment and action, Cornell reveals its absolute contempt, disdain, and outright hatred for poor and middle class Americans.

    Putting foreigners and non-citizens ahead of Americans is disgraceful. I’m pretty sure Ezra Cornell’s quote has been distorted and misconstrued 150 years after he said it. I’m pretty sure his reaction today would be,” WTF is wrong with you people??? I didn’t mean to give preferential treatment to the rest of the planet over Americans!”

    • newyork1974

      International students, including one from the Sandwich Islands at the very start of Cornell, have been part of the University since its inception. “Any person,” without regard to gender, national origin, ethnicity, skin color, religion or lack of religion — both for students and for faculty members.

      With all due respect, George Glass, you know nothing.

      • Ezra Tank

        Yes, as long as they do it LEGALLY Newyork1974. No one has any problems with those students.

        But the fact the President Obama basically made up law from the Executive branch is the problem with DACA, not the people using it.

    • Alumnus

      How exactly do any of Cornell’s actions indicate “outright hatred for poor and middle class Americans.”? Do you have any examples. I’m very much a middle class American and had my education funded nearly in full by Cornell’s generous financial aid, as did many others whom I studied with. DACA students are high achieving and earned their spot at Cornell just like everyone else. Simply saying “we’re committed to you; we won’t kick you out.” does not mean “we hate white middle class students and hope they suffer!”

      • Guy

        harboring illegals crowds out opportunities for LEGALS! Or are the unlimited spots for legals?

  • Ezra Tank

    LOL. I love how everyone glosses over the fact that Obama enacted this ACT via Executive order ignoring Congress. That is NOT how our country was designed to work. The Executive Branch is not supposed to MAKE law like King Obama did.

    Trump is doing the correct thing by ending King Obama’s illegal act and kicking the responsibility back to Congress where it should have been decided in the first place.

    Of course the liberal tears Cornell is crying don’t seem to care about law and order and none will mention any of the above facts.

    Every spot taken by a DACA student is a spot my child or another LEGAL American child could be taking.

    Shame on your Cornell.

    Poor little Mark Zuckerberg … Hey Mark here’s an idea, how about hiring AMERICANS to replace those DACA workers? You know the America that protects you with its military and allows you to live in absolute luxury.

  • Guy

    Does the college believe in the rule of law? If not….those who believe they are beyond the law should be REMOVED!

  • Guy

    Do all liberals believe they can determine the laws they wish to follow? Leaders who express this opinion need to be REMOVED. The Democratic Party seem to espouse people should IGNORE THE LAW they don’t like, al a Hillary…and her illegal Email Server. These are not trivial items…. I think the DOJ should start arresting people who break the law! If you instruct College Employees to BREAK THE LAW….the leaders SHOULD BE ARRESTED. You don’t like the law…GET IT CHANGED IN CONGRESS!

  • Jay Wind

    I find it odd that the op-ed piece discusses concludes “University administrators will remain committed to protecting our University’s Dreamers.” While the author cannot speak for all Trustees, what is her sense of where most of them are on this issue? What is she doing to get the Board to take an official action on the issue? Specifically, how many current Cornell students are in DACA status? What is the financial impact either way of DACA? A Trustee should certainly know these facts, and a student-elected trustee should be communicating the facts to her constituents.