When hundreds of Dreamers descended on the nation’s Capitol this week to lobby for a legislative solution to a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that remains on life support following a federal judge’s ruling that the Trump administration has to accept DACA applications, they were not alone.
The Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration – a 240-member strong group founded last November to “support policies and practices that create a welcoming environment for immigrant, undocumented and international students” on college campuses – has their backs.
“This is not a reality show for Dreamers. Their lives and futures are at stake,” said UC Merced Chancellor Dorothy Leland at a Jan. 17 press conference in Washington D.C. “These students are good people, hard workers, and they just want to create a better life for themselves and their families.
“They don’t want to be treated like poker chips.”
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Leland, a founding member of the alliance, spoke at a press conference organized by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the alliance. Alliance members include Fresno State President Joseph I. Castro, Fullerton State President Mildred García, and, California State University Chancellor Tim White.
The breadth of support for the Alliance and for Dreamers from higher education leaders across the country underscores the high importance presidents place on the value of educating anyone and everyone with the talent and drive to contribute to our country and the world.
UC Merced Chancellor Dorothy Leland
Dreamers, and their supporters, are asking Congress to pass legislation by Friday (Jan. 19) that will protect the 800,000 DACA recipients. Republican leaders are pushing legislation to keep the government afloat past Friday, but have kicked the immigration debate to March. Democrats are trying to force the GOP to include a “clean” Dream Act with any temporary spending bill.
“The breadth of support for the Alliance and for Dreamers from higher education leaders across the country underscores the high importance presidents place on the value of educating anyone and everyone with the talent and drive to contribute to our country and the world,” said Leland.
She told the story of a DACA recipient, one of about 600 at UC Merced, who is a doctorate student focusing on physics on solar energy.
“Her bravery, and so many like her, is an inspiration to me,” said Leland. “It’s testament to the indomitable spirit that makes America great.”
Leland said it is time “to put politics aside and protect the American dream for these amazing, young people.”
Ana Muñoz, a junior majoring in neuroscience at DePauw University in Indiana, was 2 years old when her parents brought her to the United States.
“I realized what it meant to be undocumented in this country when I was in high school,” said Muñoz. “My father simply told me college is not an option unless I got a scholarship.”
Muñoz, like all undocumented students are not eligible for federal financial aid. A Lilly Endowment Scholarship allows her to attend DePauw.
“I am extremely lucky to be where I am,” said Muñoz. “There are many stories like mine, but I want to recognize that there are also thousands of Dreamers who haven’t had the same opportunities for a reason out of their control.
“Their stories are equally important as mine, and just as worthy of your consideration,” she said.
Leland, Muñoz and others joined the Dreamers who have been knocking on the doors of Congressional members and lobbying them to pass legislation by Friday. Every day, they said, 122 DACA recipients lose their status.
In video posted in social media, Dreamers shouted, “We’ve come too far. We won’t turn around. We’ll block the streets with justice. We are freedom bound.”