Professors from the UA, Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University are encouraging schools to reaffirm their support for students worried about being deported under Donald Trump’s administration.
President Barack Obama made Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, as an executive order in June 2012. DACA allows young adults who were brought into the U.S. illegally as children to continue to work or study without fear of deportation.
Trump has spoken publicly about opposing DACA, leaving roughly 741,000 young people nervous about their futures.
The university professors distributed an interactive letter endorsed by the Arizona State University Academic Council outlining all the expectations they hope schools uphold for DACA students. Anyone can add their name and affiliation to the roughly 1,300 professors and students who have already signed the letter in an act of solidarity.
The letter asks all Arizona universities and colleges to “take steps to ensure all students, regardless of background, beliefs or immigration status, will be supported in pursuit of their studies and degree completion.”
The letter also calls for a guarantee of student privacy and readily available counseling for DACA students.
Alberto Arenas, UA associate professor of environmental and sustainability education, said he signed the letter because he’s had students who either had undocumented family members or were undocumented themselves and “deserved all the help they could get.”
“Because in the college of education we’re so concerned about the status and the future of these students, we completely support the idea that DACA should be renewed,” Arenas said.
Marcy Wood is an associate professor of mathematics education who also signed the circulating letter.
“There was a lot of faculty concerned about how our students were feeling,” Wood said. “I think it’s important that we make sure we protect those students.”
UA President Ann Weaver Hart also sent an email to all UA students and employees reaffirming the university’s support for DACA students on Nov. 24.
“The UA statement publicly stakes out our position on protecting DACA student information, providing advice and counsel for those students and ensuring any educational aspiration underway at the UA can be successfully completed regardless of events,” Hart said in the email.
Ndekela Sakala, a biochemistry and psychology junior and an immigrant from Zambia, said her parents brought her to the U.S. legally when she was 7 years old, but she said the path to citizenship for all of them was difficult because of the time and expense the process requires. Her own immigration story is one of the motives she had for signing the letter.
“As immigrants, we come here to get a better life for ourselves and our families,” Sakala said. “I just want this campus to feel safe for all students. I think we all deserve the opportunity to do the best we can and be as successful as we want to be.”
Francy Luna Diaz, a political science junior, emigrated from Colombia to the U.S. in 2011. She also signed the letter after receiving it via email from a professor in the College of Gender and Women’s Studies.
“I think it’s important the students in the DACA program are allowed to have the opportunity to get an education,” Luna Diaz said. “Since most of them came here as children, it’s the only country that they know. It’s the only culture and they only place they call home, so denying them the opportunity to get an education and be able to advance in life not only affects them personally but also affects the community in general.”
According to a Center for American Progress study, terminating DACA would remove at least $433.4 billion from the U.S. gross domestic product over a decade.
Elizabeth Oglesby, an associate professor of geography and development and Latin American studies, said she signed the letter because, as a professor, she has a professional and ethical responsibility to support students.
“Even if there were to be some sort of change with the Trump administration regarding the legal protection for the DACA students, that would not make them any less part of our university community,” Oglesby said.
All three professors, Arenas, Wood and Oglesby, said they had not heard of any UA faculty speaking out in opposition of the renewal of DACA.
The names on the list of people who have signed the letter have reached beyond campus boundaries as well. Ward 6 councilman Steve Kozachik holds slot number 1,235.
“These people are here doing all the things we want all of our students to do,” Kozachik said. “They’re not criminals, they don’t deserve deportation, and we as a university community, and we as a community generally, need to support them.”
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