UCO DREAMers’ Future
Supporters of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA chant slogans and hold signs while joining a Labor Day rally in downtown Los Angeles on Monday, Sept. 4, 2017. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)
President Donald Trump’s decision to end the Differed Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) caused a reaction from the University of Central Oklahoma’s leaders; President Don Betz, Student Body President Stockton Duvall, and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion all released statements about the action.
According to the University of California at Berkeley “The purpose of DACA is to protect eligible immigrant youth who came to the United States when they were children from deportation. DACA gives young undocumented immigrants protection from deportation, and a work permit. The program expires after two years, subject to renewal,” as described DACA on their website.
This program began in 2012 by the Obama Administration.
In a press conference held by the Department of Justice Sept. 5, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the end of DACA.
“Societies where the rule of law is subject to political whims and personal biases tend to become societies afflicted by corruption, poverty, and human suffering,” said Sessions. “To have a lawful system of immigration that serves the national interest, we cannot admit everyone who would like to come here.”
According to Sessions, “The compassionate thing is to end the lawlessness, enforce our laws, and, if Congress chooses to make changes to those laws, to do so through the process set forth by our Founders in a way that advances the interest of the nation.”
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services found about 1.4 million requests for DACA have been accepted since its beginning.
Nora Contreras is the Project Director of Latino Americans Motivating, Educating, and Transforming America. This is a Student Support Services project at UCO that assists students who come from predominately non-English speaking households.
“I think that there is a misconception in the general population regarding what rights a DACA student has. DACA students are people who can come to school, however they don’t receive any federal aid. They’re paying their tuition out of pocket, and many times are paying out of state tuition,” Contreras said.
Another term for DACA students is “DREAMers” which stems from the Dream Act. It stands for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors.
According to the American Immigration Council, the Dream Act is a pathway to legal status for undocumented youth who came to this country as children.
“Their dream is to be like everyone else; to work, go to school and do things we take for granted,” Contreras said.
Contreras also works with other organizations on campus.
“There are so many groups and organizations at UCO that support our students, especially in this situation. We are here for support, and to offer them a person to talk to and a place to feel safe,” Contreras said. “We want to help them reach their goals to graduate so they can be individuals who serve and give back to the community.”
Salvador Arcivar is the president of the Hispanic American Student Association at UCO. The HASA organization has been arranging events around campus specifically centered around DACA.
The first event was a vigil held Sunday by El Camino OKC, at the state capitol. This organization focuses on supporting immigrants throughout the city. The vigil will be a time to reflect about the changes happening.
The second event was the DACA Solidarity Rally under the Blue Tent that was held early today. Following the rally was the Hispanic Heritage Month kickoff in the Nigh University Center.
“We’re basically kicking off the month through a series of events. Keynote speaker Guillermo Morales is an engineer at BOEING, first generation Mexican-American, and comes from an immigrant family. He’ll be talking about the challenges he faces and has faced,” said Arcivar.
The fourth event is the Immigration Education Forum. This event will explain and educate people about what DACA is. It will be Sept. 19, 12:30-1:30 p.m., and the location is to be announced.
Lastly, there will be the Dreamers Open Mic. The tentative date is Oct. 2, 1:30-2:30 p.m. in the Will Rogers Room of the Nigh University Center. This will be an open mic poetry reading where people can come and have an open discussion about DACA.
“The idea behind these events is to keep the discussion going about what DACA is,” said Arcivar. “We hope to educate people about DACA, and we hope they will see how important this issue is.”
UCO President Don Betz released a statement Wednesday about the ending of DACA:
“We find this decision to be ill-thought and contrary to our nation’s revered values that provides unlimited opportunities to achieve the American Dream. It is a decision that we will vigorously address through the legislative process… The focus of our energies now shifts to the Congress and our elected representatives. We will work to influence a bipartisan solution. This is a moment for us to be fully engaged citizens in connecting with our elected officials both in Oklahoma and the Congress to seek a fair, compassionate outcome.”
Betz said whether through a call or email, direct contact is important.
“Representatives need to hear from people. It’s something the people will have to repeat. Students and staff must become very active citizens, understanding the importance of making direct contact through their representatives. Congress is empowered by the public. In many ways, their direction needs to come from what their constituents are doing and thinking,” said Betz. “I believe this is a unique opportunity for all students concerned to use their civic power and rights to engage themselves.”
Oklahoma Congressman Steve Russel released a statement Thursday regarding his position toward DACA:
“The President is correct in stating that the solution to DACA lies with Congress. Now we have a deadline. I personally cannot see a construct where we would or should want to deport these individuals. I think we must address a way to provide a permanent residency status which would then place the prospects of earning citizenship upon the individual. They had no choice on being here when they came here as children through the actions of others. A residency would give them a way to abide by our laws and then whether or not they would eventually become citizens would be on their own merits.”