Uncertainty, disapproval from Texas universities over decision to rescind DACA

DACA recipients and members of the University Leadership Initiative gathered in Austin to protest the decision to end the DACA program. (KXAN Photo/ Chris Nelson).
DACA recipients and members of the University Leadership Initiative gathered in Austin to protest the decision to end the DACA program. (KXAN Photo/ Chris Nelson).

AUSTIN (KXAN) — After the Trump Administration announced a plan to phase-out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program on Tuesday, many Texas universities are addressing this announcement publicly, and some higher education leaders are expressing disappointment with it.

Texas has played a large role in the conversation about DACA as it is the state with the second largest number of DACA recipients (more than 120,000). Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton also led the charge against DACA with politicians in other states calling on the Trump administration to begin phasing out the program this year.

DACA recipients, also known as “dreamers,” must either be in school, have graduated from high school, have obtained a GED, or be an honorably discharged veteran of the armed forces. As a group, DACA recipients are educated and many are college students or college educated.

UT System Chancellor William H. McRaven issued a statement shortly after the announcement, sharing both his concern for ending the program and support for undocumented and DACA students at UT System schools.

Speaking directly to UT DACA students, McRaven said, “You can be certain of our support as you continue to pursue your dreams – the American dream – to obtain an education and build a better future for you and your families. As UT adheres to federal and state laws regarding immigration, rest assured our campuses will remain places where you can safely study as Congress takes up this issue.”

McCraven also noted that Texas was among the first states to offer Texas high school graduates who were born in foreign countries an opportunity to pay in-state tuition. Undocumented students in Texas will still be eligible to receive in-state tuition rates because of a tuition benefit passed before DACA known as the Texas Dream Act.

UT System

McRaven continued to say that welcoming in students who were not born in the U.S. helps fuel UT’s vision of attracting the best and brightest talent from around the world to its schools.

“These students consider themselves to be Americans and Texans, proud of the state they see as their home,” McRaven said.

McRaven also said he understands the Trump administration’s concern with how DACA was implemented, but he also wants Congress to act quickly to help DACA students remain in the U.S. and achieve citizenship.

UT Austin

UT Austin’s president Greg Fenves explained that rescinding DACA “greatly impacts the University of Texas community.”

“At The University of Texas we are defined and elevated by our students,” Fenves said in a statement. “They come from many backgrounds and experiences to learn, to benefit from the diversity of the campus, to be ambitious and to serve. UT brings people together. We don’t benefit by shutting people out. ”

Fenves has been among university leaders who have called on President Trump to keep DACA in place. He plans to continue urging lawmakers to create long term support for the people who came to the U.S. as children.

The Longhorn DREAMers project website already provides information for UT students about how to proceed given the announcement and how the rescission of DACA may change their college experience.

UT Austin does not track the number of undocumented or DACA students on campus.

Austin Community College District

The end to the DACA program will impact many ACC students. In the fall of 2016, ACC reported that there were 1,139 undocumented students enrolled in their credit courses.

Dr. Richard Rhodes, ACC’s President, also expressed worry about how this announcement would affect students there.

“We are dedicated to helping people realize and achieve their dreams through education regardless of national origin,” Rhodes said in a statement. “It’s concerning the impact the repeal of DACA may have on these students and their families. We are committed to working with our partners in higher education and Congressional representatives to find a pathway that allows these students to complete their education and achieve their career goals. This is what makes our community strong. While we will always follow the law, ACC has been and will remain an open institution to all students. The repeal of DACA will not change how we educate our students and our commitment to their success.”

Texas State University

Texas State’s president, Denise M. Trauth didn’t express an opinion on the change to the program, but emphasized the university will be awaiting more guidance on how to comply with the law.

“Texas State University is committed to the well-being of all members of the Bobcat community, and it is our aim to do everything within our legal authority to achieve that goal,” Trauth said in a statement. “We will begin discussing how this action might impact individuals and the university community, maintaining our commitment to inclusion and diversity in a way that complies with all applicable federal and state laws.”

Texas State added that they do not track the number of DACA students or undocumented students attending their university.

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