The School of International and Public Affairs hosted a panel on Wednesday discussing implications that the potential revocation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program would have for university life, Columbia’s student body, and immigrant populations in New York City.
DACA was an administrative program implemented by the Obama administration in 2012 allowing minors who entered the U.S. illegally, termed “Dreamers,” to receive a two-year deferred action status from deportation, along with other benefits. The Trump administration announced that DACA would be rescinded in early September, leaving the fate of almost 800,000 DACA recipients uncertain.
The panel featured Elora Mukherjee, director of the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic at the Law School, Van Tran, associate professor of sociology, Charlotte Gossett Navarro, a senior manager at the New York Immigration Coalition, and Speaker of the New York City Council Melissa Mark-Viverito, CC ’91. The event was sponsored by SIPA’s urban and social policy and U.S. regional specialization divisions and was moderated by Professor of International and Public Affairs and Political Science Ester Fuchs.
Following the announcement of DACA’s termination, the Office of University Life issued several statements in strong opposition to the decision. On September 7, University President Lee Bollinger was one of 57 presidents and chancellors in the Association of American Universities who issued a statement to Congress requesting a permanent solution to the program’s rescindment.
The panelists addressed certain actions the University could take in light of the termination of DACA and emphasized the importance of protecting Dreamers.
Navarro insisted that the topic of immigration was pressing and described the end of DACA as a “crisis.” She said there were concrete steps the University might take in order to advocate for student immigrants, such as expanding financial aid.
“I’ve met students that’ve been accepted to Columbia University and had to turn it down because there’s no access to federal aid unless it’s a scholarship,” Navarro said. “How is Columbia extending themselves to say, ‘We’re gonna do everything we can to keep you safe on this campus’?”
Tran echoed Navarro’s sentiments that the school needs to focus on creating a community that is open to DACA and undocumented students.
“We need to do as much as we can to provide not just the financial support, but also social and emotional support to our students,” Tran said. “There is no question that our undergraduate communities, as well as our graduate students, at Columbia are feeling this impact and I think it’s affecting their work emotionally as well as academically.”
Mukherjee explained the legal intricacies of DACA and the benefits it provides to undocumented individuals. The panelists agreed that one of the key benefits the policy provides is eligibility for work permits. With the Trump administration’s termination of DACA, Mukherjee argued these immigrants will have trouble getting authorization to work.
According to Tran, estimates from both liberal and conservative sources predict a loss of billions of dollars in economic output and tax revenue due to this policy, although estimates usually do not include the predicted $7.5 billion loss from the costs of deporting all current DACA beneficiaries.
Tran also shared personal experiences he has had with concerned students after teaching classes on immigration.
“Never once did I not have a student come up to me afterwards and say to me, on the verge of tears, that they themselves have DACA-received aid and/or they are undocumented and they don’t know what to do about it and they are fearful of what will happen to them,” Tran said.