President Trump’s decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy is of great concern to the nation today. On Sept. 6, before Hurricane Irma’s arrival, Saint Leo President William J. Lennox sent out a mass email to the student body that made the University’s stance on DACA crystal clear.
“As a Catholic university, Saint Leo University is disheartened by the move to terminate DACA,” the letter stated. “We are in accord with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.”
In an interview, Lennox went on to further state that “[Saint Leo University] follows the Bishops and what the Bishops have said. It’s taking care of the people that are in the margins sometimes, and we think that’s a part of our mission and what we do.”
The DACA policy is an executive action carried out by former President Barack Obama in 2012. The policy provides undocumented immigrants with the same opportunities as U.S. citizens.
Having reflected on the subject of DACA as part of the curriculum in his classes, Dr. Daniel Dubois, assistant professor of history, is well versed on the subject.
“DACA provides a two-year respite for children who have been brought to the United States before the age of 16 and who are enrolled in schools or employed,” explained Dubois. “Instead of putting them on a path to legal residency or legal citizenship, what DACA does is provides them a two-year guarantee that they will not be deported.”
These undocumented youths who fall under the DACA policy are referred to as “Dreamers.” These Dreamers arrived in the United States as children and were raised as Americans. Should DACA be terminated and no permanent solution be reached in its place, this could spell trouble for many Dreamers.
“With DACA you have, in our case, students who know no other country,” said Lennox. “They were brought up in this country…you can’t send them back to a country that they don’t know.”
“Many of these kids were brought [to the United States] at two, three, or four years old. They don’t know anything other than growing up in the United States,” he said.
Many have questioned, both recently and in the past, the legality of former President Obama’s executive order to create DACA. By repealing DACA, President Trump is forcing Congress to re-evaluate the immigration policy.
“From my understanding of it, I think people who qualify under DACA are grateful that they are not going to be deported, but I don’t think many of them look at [DACA] as a perfect solution,” said Dubois. “The idea that they continually have to reapply is problematic. I don’t think that President Obama at the time thought it was perfect. There was nothing at the time happening out of Congress, so the President felt that he had to take some sort of action.”
As of now, the DACA policy has been officially slated to end on March 5, 2018. Congress has until then to find a permanent solution for those Dreamers currently protected under the policy.
As stated previously by Lennox, Saint Leo is home to many Dreamers. Both Lennox and the University as a whole are determined to keep supporting their students who benefit from DACA’s assistance.
“I first came to DACA by meeting some of the students here,” said Lennox. “They came up to me and they told me their stories and that they were so thankful that Saint Leo was a part of their lives. And that’s really important. I felt that we had to come out and just say that we firmly believe that we ought to continue educating, from our part, the DACA students.”
The Protect Dreamers Higher Education Coalition has deemed Oct. 16 through 20 a “Protect Dreamers” themed week. During this time, the Coalition will attempt to urge Congress to create a permanent solution, in part by highlighting the accomplishments of Dreamers on university campuses.
Late last year, President Lennox took the first steps in addressing Congress by being one of many higher education leaders to sign a letter in support of DACA youth.