A little more than 24 hours after President Donald Trump’s administration announced its plan to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, people packed the Multicultural Center to learn more about what the program’s end meant for Ohio University. There was standing room only.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, is a federal government program that protects young, undocumented students. It was created in 2012 under former President Barack Obama to allow people brought to the country illegally as children the temporary right to live, study and work in the United States. 

In early September, the Department of Homeland Security said it would no longer process any new applications for the program. It will, however, renew permits for anyone whose status expires in the next six months, which will give Congress an opportunity within that time to fight for the program. 

"There is nothing compassionate about the failure to enforce immigration laws,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said at a Sept. 5 news conference. “Enforcing the law saves lives, protects communities and taxpayers and prevents human suffering."

At OU, the number of DACA students is unclear because not all students report their immigration statuses to the university and those students currently apply as domestic students, OU Spokeswoman Carly Leatherwood said.

“We believe we have a relatively low number of undocumented students,” she said in an email. “They are considered out-of-state students.” 

Vice Provost for Global Affairs Lorna Jean Edmonds said that unlike international students, DACA students aren't part of a separate and distinctive community.

“It's not like there's an office for DACA students. We don't have that,” Edmonds said. “Our relationship with them is quite different than our relationship with say, international students, where we know this community and we can reach out to them. We don't have that same vehicle.”

The university has been thinking ahead about how it can help students if federal action is taken on campus. The administration has discussed how faculty and staff would handle that situation. 

“What we're trying to do is create some level of comfort by making the information on our executive orders website ... so that people know ... what the issues are,” Edmonds said. “We're really trying to sort of tap into these various communities so that ... people know what their rights are and they exercise their rights accordingly.” 

Edmonds said the main goal is to ensure that all students graduate. One option the university is looking into, she said, is seeing what other countries would accept OU students if imposed immigration restrictions keep DACA students out of the country. 

“We are looking at ways to allow them to complete their studies but maybe not on American soil,” Edmonds said. “That's still a work in process, and that's nowhere near completion yet. I'm really hoping that we don't get to that point.” 

The day after the Trump administration announced the end of the program, OU President Duane Nellis was in Washington, D.C., and co-signed a letter to Congress supporting the DACA program. The letter asked Congress to approve legislation incorporating a permanent solution to the issue, according to a news release.

Although university officials are working to support DACA students, Edmonds said students and residents of Athens must be part of the conversation. 

“DACA represents almost 1 million people,” Edmonds said. “If we don't give them access to an education, then they're not able to contribute in the ways (they) would be able to ... We need bright ideas ... As far as I'm concerned, it's all hands on deck.” 



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