September 6, 2017

QCC’s Pedraja among college leaders defending DACA

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Antonio Caban/State House News Service

Immigrants and advocates protest inside the State House last summer.

Public community college officials in Massachusetts are taking a stand in support of a five-year-old immigration program put in place by President Barack Obama put on the chopping block Tuesday by President Donald Trump.

Obama signed an executive order in June 2012 and the Department of Homeland Security subsequently began accepting applications for “deferred action” from immigrants who met certain criteria, such as being brought to the country before they turned 16. Under the program, known as DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals], qualifying immigrants — often described as “dreamers” — are protected from deportation for at least two years, and become eligible to apply for a work permit.

In a joint statement with the Boston Public Schools issued on Sunday, the 15 public community college presidents in Massachusetts said they are committed to educating all who pass through their doors.

Individuals with DACA status attend and graduate from K-12 schools, go on to post-secondary schools, and pay taxes and fill jobs in Massachusetts, the presidents said.

“Ending DACA and subjecting these individuals to deportation not only contradicts our shared values and the inherent principles in our educational missions, but threatens the economic well-being of our region, state, and country,” the presidents wrote. They added, “The ‘crime’ of the undocumented immigrant today is pursuing the same dream of many in the past – a better life for their families.”

Trump, as expected, called for an end to the program Tuesday. Attorney General Jeff Sessions made the announcement, noting that the move sets a deadline of March 5, 2018, for Congress to replace DACA with a measure better prepared to withstand the scrutiny of the courts.

Trump took a hardline stance against illegal immigration during his campaign and has maintained that position during his early months in office, frequently emphasizing his “America first” approach to governing.

Sen. Edward Markey and other elected officials planned a noon press conference in Boston to express their support for the program, which Markey says has assisted 7,900 young people in Massachusetts. The senator’s office, and several reports, estimated 800,000 young people nationwide would be affected by a decision to end DACA.

The program, according to Markey’s office, “allows undocumented young people to legally remain, study and work in the United States if they had lived in the country at least ten years, have no criminal record and could pass a federal background check.”

Ahead of the announcement, Trump on Tuesday morning tweeted, “Congress, get ready to do your job – DACA!”

Former Gov. Deval Patrick used Obama’s order five years ago to expand the pool of individuals eligible to pay lower in-state tuition rates at public higher education institutions. If the federal policy is changed, the Baker administration could face a decision on whether to alter state eligibility rules.

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