News of the potential repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA) has higher education institutions contemplating the impact of such an action on their students and young faculty. Many institutions are determining the required course of action as it relates to the “Dreamers” as both students and employees, with some taking an active voice in the debate and/or laying out steps to ensure students understand what protections, rights and legal requirements apply to them in the context of their place as members of the college or university community. (Note: At the time of newsletter publication, drafts of bills offering a “pathway to citizenship” have been introduced in Congress.)
Since its 2012 creation through an Obama administration executive action, DACA has provided a way for undocumented immigrants who were brought to America as children to receive work permits and temporary protection from deportation. It is estimated that currently there are approximately 740,000 accepted applicants. Individuals are eligible if they have been in the U.S. for five years or longer and do not have a criminal record. The states with the largest populations of potential DACA beneficiaries are California, Texas, Florida, Illinois and New York, according to the American Immigration Council. According to the Migration Policy Institute (MPI), 50 percent of DACA recipients are enrolled in some form of postsecondary education, and 70 percent of them are enrolled in a bachelor’s degree program.
A study by the CATO Institute1 indicates that a rollback of the program would ultimately cost the federal government over $60 billion and reduce economic growth over the next decade by $280 billion. One of the biggest economic growth impacts of the repeal could be disruption caused by loss of employees, researchers and students as productive contributors to the economy.
Beyond the economic impact, institutional leaders must consider the legal and policy implications in their dual roles as campus community leaders and employers of these students and/or faculty. Proactive actions institutions have already taken include: educational efforts to reduce uncertainty by providing legal resources, including identifying pro bono law firm partnerships; proactive advocacy for students and faculty in the legislative debate; and enhancement of student support services such as counseling, distance learning for degree completion and financial assistance. Institutions are reaffirming their interpretation of legal requirements and reinforcing existing frameworks to ensure compliance by asking questions such as:
- In what circumstances are we required to release student information? What is our specific policy relative to outside requests?
- What systems do we have in place to alert us to expiration of required employment authorization documents (EAD)? Do we understand how a DACA beneficiary’s work authorization eligibility relates to the terms of an EAD?
- Does the institution understand the consequences of immigration noncompliance?
- Does the institution have a written immigration compliance plan, along with up-to-date policies and procedures?
- Do we have an experienced and qualified legal expert to advise on these matters and a compliance framework we are confident in?
- How do we ensure we have processes in place to protect against potential discrimination claims?
If your institution is unable to answer the above question(s) or is not clear on what approach your institution will take in this period of transition, feel free to contact us and we can connect you with specialists who can help.
1CATO Institute: https://www.cato.org/blog/economic-fiscal-impact-repealing-daca