College groups are pressing Congress to pass legislation offering undocumented students the right to stay in the U.S. permanently after the Supreme Court granted them a reprieve from deportation.
“This is undoubtedly a big win, most importantly for undocumented students,” said Craig Lindwarm, vice president for governmental affairs at the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities. “However, it in no way changes what is ultimately necessary, which is a legislative solution.”
The Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision Thursday blocking President Donald Trump‘s effort to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program comes as colleges and universities face enrollment shortfalls because of shutdowns forced by the coronavirus pandemic, the need to reopen cautiously to avoid triggering new outbreaks, and students’ financial stresses.
Higher education groups have backed two bills that would extend protections for undocumented students known as “Dreamers.” A bipartisan Senate measure (S. 874) would provide a path to citizenship for undocumented individuals brought to the U.S. as children. House Democrats’ legislation (H.R. 6) passed last year would cover Dreamers as well as individuals approved for temporary protected status and deferred enforced departure, two programs for foreign nationals whose home countries are deemed unsafe because of wars or natural disasters programs for immigrants.
Lawmakers had used the pending court decision as an excuse for inaction on DACA youth, said Ted Mitchell, president of the American Council on Education.
“Today’s Supreme Court ruling is a needed and most welcome development, but it does not offer permanent legal protection,” he said.
Unanswered Questions on DACA
More than 450,000 undocumented students are enrolled at U.S. colleges and universities, a recent report found. Less than half of those are eligible for DACA, which applies to undocumented individuals brought to the U.S. as children before 2007.
“For colleges, it means that their students are no longer at an immediate risk for deportation,” said Viviann Anguiano, associate director of higher education at the Center for American Progress. “It also means that they’ll have to continue to provide support for students, particularly those students who are not DACA recipients and who want to apply.”
A lower court ruling required the Trump administration to continue taking applications for renewal of DACA status. The Supreme Court ruling leaves unsettled whether the federal government must resume processing new DACA applications, Anguiano said.
Several current and former students at the City University of New York were co-plaintiffs in the case the court decided Thursday. The University of California, Berkeley, and Princeton University had also sued to overturn the Trump administration’s decision to end the DACA program.
Diana Betancourt, manager of the Undocumented Focused Program at the University of Washington Bothell, said receiving DACA status in her freshman year allowed her to work as an undergraduate, apply for state financial aid, and find a job immediately after graduating.
Betancourt has also created a foundation with her sisters to support other undocumented students attending college or vocational programs. The fight over DACA and immigration overhaul isn’t over, she said.
“Now that we have gotten over this hurdle, we can redirect our energy to continue pushing for comprehensive immigration reform,” she said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Kreighbaum in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org