Campus community reacts to DACA repeal
The UA and Tucson community protest President Donald Trump's decision to end DACA on Sept. 5 and 6.
More than 100 University of Arizona students, alumni and community members gathered on the UA Mall in support of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals students and locals.
The crowd heard from DACA students and organizers, then marched to UA President Dr. Robert Robbins' office to demand the UA and Arizona Board of Regents support and protect DACA students.
The event was a response to the announcement of the end of the DACA program within six months, made by President Donald Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Sept. 5.
Robbins, the regents and Associated Students of the University of Arizona President Matt Lubisich have all released statements in support of the educational opportunity provided by DACA.
“DACA grants work permits and relief from deportation to folks who qualify based on selective requirements,” said Darío Andrade Mendoza, UA alumnus, DACA recipient and communication director for ScholarshipsAZ.
The requirements for DACA, as laid out in an executive order by former President Obama in 2012, include having arrived in the U.S. under the age of 16. DACA recipients pay taxes but are not entitled to benefits from some social programs, like Social Security and food stamps.
“It is not OK to end the program, because almost a million people have made lives with that work permit and relief from deportation over the last five years,” Andrade Mendoza said.
High school students from Cholla High School and Tucson High Magnet School staged walkouts after their superintendent failed to release a statement supporting DACA student rights, Andrade Mendoza said.
This event was organized by UA’s recently opened Immigrant Student Resource Center; ScholarshipsAZ, a nonprofit organization providing resources for all students seeking higher education regardless of immigration status; and Learning, Understanding and Cultivating Health Advocacy, a graduate student organization which advocates for health and human rights on both sides of the Arizona border.
Organizers said the event was meant to give student voices a platform.
The event will be followed by a press conference later in the day and a march on city hall tomorrow.
Marchers chanted “No hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here” and “not my president” as they marched on the Mall, holding signs.
“We are here to defend undocumented students’ rights,” said Jesus Lucero, a DACA recipient.
According to Lucero, the UA does not do enough to support its DACA students who could lose their special tuition rates, which would force many to abandon a higher education.
Many DACA recipients have never known the countries they were born in, and according to the Center for American Progress, $460 billion of the U.S. GDP would be lost over the next 10 years if all DACA recipients no longer could be part of the program.
Earlier in the day, Lubisich released a statement in support of Arizona’s 30,000 DACA students and residents.
“DACA students at the University of Arizona are assests to the campus and Tucson community.” Lubisich wrote. “They and their families contribute to Arizona’s economy and continue to be an important part of our social and cultural fabric. DACA students are Wildcats in every sense; their contributions to our campus community are invaluable and irreplaceable.”
Lubisich also called on lawmakers to protect DACA students' right to in-state tuition and UA administration to support DACA students and help them achieve their academic goals.
Both Robbins and the regents called for “legal certainty” for students in continuing their education. The regents believe a six-month period is enough time for Congress “to find a sensible and humane legislative solution” such that DACA students may complete their education unhindered.
Before the Trump administration announcement, President Robbins sent an email to UA students and faculty.
“In concert with our governing board, the Arizona Board of Regents, we are providing all of the support possible to DACA students as permitted by law,” Robbins wrote.
Andrade Mendoza disagreed.
“The UA is doing the minimum it possibly can,” Andrade Mendoza said.
Andrade Mendoza hopes the UA and board of regents will help secure accessible tuition rates for DACA students and help provide them access to greater private scholarships.
He hopes citizens who support DACA students will raise their voice and pressure elected representatives to protect and support DACA students and community members.
“They took away our protection from deportation and our ability to work,” Andrade Mendoza said. “They want us to go back to the shadows, and we are not about to do that. It is time to push back harder, to be bold and be more unafraid.”
Follow Randall Eck on Twitter.