The Kansas State University administration reiterated its support for “swift congressional action” to protect undocumented students after President Donald Trump’s administration announced the end of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a policy program which granted young undocumented immigrants from immediate deportation.
The K-State chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens held a special meeting Tuesday evening in Justin Hall to discuss the possible ramifications of the bill at the local level and offer support for DACA students, popularly referred to as Dreamers after the legislative DREAM Act — an act that attempted to create a legislative path to residency but has failed in Congress several times.
At the meeting, several K-State officials — including Madai Rivera, the university’s diversity coordinator; Larry Moeder, director of financial aid and admissions; and student body president Jack Ayres and vice president Olivia Baalman — clarified questions some students had about the change to the program and offered resources for affected students. Vice president for student life Pat Bosco was scheduled to speak, but Rivera said he sent his apologies after an unrelated incident precluded him from the meeting.
Rivera said many of the university’s units, including Counseling Services, have reached out to ask how they can support DACA students.
“Our actions and our support speak to our land-grant mission as a land-grant university,” Rivera said. “I think this is who we are as a campus, and that’s why what happens to our students of course affects us as a campus. I mean, we’re a family. I tell our students, ‘This is your campus.’ Whatever ends up happening, we’re here to support.”
Moeder said he did not anticipate any substantial changes in the amount of financial aid that undocumented students receive, as they are ineligible to receive federal or state financial assistance. However, undocumented students should not expect to see a difference in the amount of scholarships awarded, as those are not dependent on immigration status, Moeder said.
Ayres said the Student Governing Association has been working with other student governments across the nation to demonstrate support for quick congressional action to seek a permanent legislative solution for DACA recipients.
Ayres and Baalman issued an online statement Tuesday expressing disappointment in the announcement of the end of the DACA program and committing to support and solidarity for students affected by the termination of the program.
At the meeting, other students called for protests and rallies. Leslie Ramirez, sophomore in secondary education and president of LULAC, said a rally was planned for 11 a.m. in Bosco Plaza Wednesday.
“We’ve been planning this rally for two days,” Ramirez said. “We may even try to go to Topeka and talk about this there.”
Ramirez said other organizations, such as K-State Feminists Igniting Resistance and Empowerment and the Black Student Union, have expressed solidarity with the rally.
“This is our support and our protection,” Ramirez. “We have each others’ backs.”
Marco Loma, senior in mechanical engineering and DACA recipient, said DACA was a just and earned program for those who received its benefits.
“I was eight when I came here — I didn’t know what I was doing,” Loma said. “My parents were just trying to find a job. In a way, DACA is something I’ve earned for doing my best in the United States and not getting in trouble and giving back to the community.
“For me, I struggle to find jobs and internships even with DACA, because employers didn’t even really know what DACA was,” Loma said. “I just don’t know what to do. I think I’ll figure something out, but today has just been confusing.”
Loma said the repeal of DACA has left him uncertain about his future.
“I’ve been preparing for my future as if I would always have DACA,” Loma said. “I never expected that DACA would be something that would be taken away, because we didn’t do anything. We’re the children of immigrant workers, and I don’t think our parents did anything wrong to bring us here, so I think that DACA was something that was fair for us.”
The university issued a statement Tuesday morning stating that the university has joined the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities in seeking “swift congressional action” to address the issue of approximately 800,000 DACA recipients potentially being deported to countries they hardly know. The statement also pointed out the availability of university resources to all students affected by the end of the program.
Through a statement from Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Trump administration announced its plans to end the DACA program — enacted in 2012 by then-president Barack Obama. In the statement, Trump’s administration said the program would be phased out in the next six months but challenged Congress to find a legislative solution to the issue.
The end of the DACA program fulfills one of Trump’s campaign promises, although he has expressed hesitance to end the program, saying he has a “love for these people, and hopefully Congress will be able to help them properly.”
Although the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services office will no longer accept DACA applications as of Tuesday, existing applications will be processed, and current DACA issuances or permits will be considered valid through their printed expiration dates. Recipients who wish to renew their permits must do so before Oct. 5.
Trump acted to end the program Tuesday after a coalition of 26 states, including Kansas, threatened to sue the federal government if Trump failed to take decisive action by Sept. 5. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said he would dismiss the lawsuit following Trump’s decision.
“The obvious reality is our country is not going to round up and deport 800,000 people who in the past were brought here as children, grew up here, have committed no crimes and now have relied in good faith on the Obama administration’s false but enticing promises,” Schmidt said in a press release. “Congress needs to enact immigration law that humanely and responsibly fixes this problem once and for all. There is no substitute for addressing this matter through the lawmaking process the Constitution establishes.”
According to NASPA Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education — an organization which tracks issues and governmental policies related to student life on college campuses — 21 states nationwide have some kind of tuition policy that allows undocumented students to pay in-state tuition. In other states, the undocumented students pay out-of-state tuition.
In a December 2016 letter to the student body and in anticipation of possible changes to DACA made after Trump was to be sworn in, President Richard Myers reiterated the support K-State offers to undocumented students, as allowed by law. Myers instructed students with any questions or concerns to look to the university’s services for assistance and instructed vice president for student life Pat Bosco to take charge of those efforts.
Myers also wrote that in accordance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, the university “not release student records without written consent from the student or a lawfully issued subpoena, warrant or judicial order.”
“It remains our policy to require the necessary legal documents before disclosing student records or information derived from student records,” Myers wrote in the letter.