SHSU’s response to DACA changes

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On Sept. 5, Trump Administration’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the gradual repeal of the Obama-era policy Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Obama established DACA through executive order in 2012 as a means to provide temporary legal protection from deportation to “dreamers”.

“Dreamers” include any unauthorized immigrant who comes into the country before the age of 16, has lived in the U.S. consecutively for five years, and is currently under the age of 35. Under the DACA legislation, dreamers can apply to receive protection from deportation, as well as given a work authorization permit, social security card, and access to education as long as they meet the criteria, and pay a filing fee of 465 dollars to the Department of Homeland Security. These requirements can be waived for ‘hardships’ as well.

Recipients of the DACA program are protected for a period of two years following application approval, in which time they have the ability to reapply and potentially achieve American citizenship.

As of Sept. 5, the Federal Government will no longer grant DACA approvals. Current recipients will retain their status and work authorization permits until they expire, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Those whose DACA status expires between Sept. 5 and March 5 can apply for renewal, as long as their requests are in before October 5, 2017, USCIS said. If renewal is not requested before the deadline, legal status granted by DACA will be phased out starting in March 2018. Once the phase-out process begins all current recipients will lose their protections by March 2020.

“Approximately 800,000 individuals are enrolled in the [DACA] program, and over half of those reside in California and Texas,” Sam Houston State University President Dana Hoyt said.

Over 140 SHSU students, as well as several faculty members, are among those DACA recipients that may be affected by the repeal, according to SHSU Director of Marketing and Communications Jeff Olsen.

Since the news of President Trump’s plans to end DACA, many student and faculty are left wondering how the program’s ending will affect them once their protections phase out. After their DACA status expires, dreamers will run the risk of being deported for being in the country without the proper authorization. They would also lose any financial aid DACA has provided, including access to scholarships, which potentially could mean the end of their status as a student.

Trump has given Congress six months to pass new legislation addressing the immigration status of those affected by the repeal of DACA, but SHSU is not waiting that long.

“By Friday, Sept. 8, Sam Houston State University had a plan and took action to support our colleagues and students impacted by the DACA changes,” Hoyt said. “We communicated directly to those affected offering a variety of campus services and resources addressing both legal and emotional needs during this time of uncertainty.”

Impacted students have been encouraged to start by reviewing the latest information on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website for important dates regarding the DACA changes.

“Our current students can continue to pursue their degrees,” Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Richard Eglsaer said. “If their DACA status expires while they are at SHSU, they will have to make a decision: To leave the country, or to stay in the country undocumented. SHSU does not discriminate based on a student’s immigration status, and as such, students can continue their studies at SHSU. In fact, because we do not track these students, we will not even know if they choose to stay in the country past the date of their DACA expiration. Although students will be able to continue their studies at SHSU, if their DACA status has expired, they will not be able to work legally in the U.S. after graduation.”

SHSU is also providing several resources that may be helpful in both answering questions about DACA and dealing with the difficulties associated.

“Those resources include, but are not limited to, the SHSU Counseling Center, The Office of Equity/Inclusion and Title IX,” Olsen said. “Additionally, students with questions about DACA can contact the Office of International Programs for assistance. As you know, some employees are also affected. Employees can reach out to the Human Resources office, which has already begun working to help answer their questions.”

The university has responded proactively in order to protect its staff and students.

“[Frank Parker, Vice President for Student Affairs at SHSU, sent an email] to students that are not permanent residents or citizens of the United States but are classified as residents for higher education purposes as per HB1403,” Director of Student Affairs Finance and Budget Lynn Clopton said.

The email was full of advice and important information regarding the DACA repeal, such as links to Homeland Security informational pages and contacts that may be helpful during these changes.

The SHSU Counseling Center is currently working to set up a support group for students who have been impacted by the DACA decision.

“The confidential nature of our services will likely be critical for these folks,” Counseling Center officials said. “Beyond that, our entire team has extensive and ongoing training in the various ways that various diversity and identity factors intersect with mental health, so we’re in an excellent position to support these folks in whatever way they need.”

Until Congress determines further litigation, SHSU will continue to provide their support to students and staff during these indeterminate times.

“For years, Sam Houston State University has welcomed DACA recipients to our campuses,” Parker said in his email. “We care about the livelihood for all SHSU students and will continue to support our students in their educational endeavors. I assure you, SHSU will not waver in our commitment to support all of our students and celebrate the diversity of our student body. We hold true to our motto, ‘The Measure of a Life is its Service’, by committing to serve all students in any way possible.”

For questions regarding DACA, students may contact Dana Van de Walker at the Office of International Affairs at 936.294.2746. or email at [email protected].