University officials addressed Georgetown’s continued commitment to and support for undocumented students and their families on March 13.
The information session, “DACA: Current State of Play and How Georgetown Community Members Can Help” came after the March 5 expiration of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. DACA provided illegal immigrants who entered the U.S. as minors to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and to be eligible for a work permit.
Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson introduced the session, quoting Dolores Huerta, an American civil rights leader and labor activist, and stressing the University’s commitment to its undocumented students and “solidarity, resolve, and hope” to support them.
Lisa Brown, vice president of the office of general counsel, expressed her “frustration and resolve” about the continued failure of the government to come to an agreement that would extend the DREAM Act and protect DACA recipients. She cited California and Hawaii court rulings that directed the Department of Homeland Security to continue renewing work permits for DACA recipients. Brown expects the cases continue through appellate courts, and that they could potentially reach the Supreme Court by the fall, but confirmed that recipients at Georgetown should continue renewing their work permits as necessary.
Brown also discussed the various amicus briefs supporting DACA the university has filed in several court cases. The most recent brief was filed in Dec. 2017, and argued that rescinding DACA “deters young people from pursuing higher education” and “precludes the remarkable students enrolled at amici institutions from deriving the full benefit of their time on campus.”
Scott Fleming, the associate vice president for federal relations, discussed the various lobbying and organizing efforts of the University. Fleming said that from contacting alumni members of Congress and congressional staffers to appearing on local radio interviews, university president John DeGioia was actively committed to supporting Georgetown’s undocumented students.
He additionally described the various immigration plans that had been put to a vote by the Senate last month, including who was most involved in each and which major policies each would have put in place. No policy successfully passed. But Fleming said the university was prepared to be “in it for the long haul.”
In Dec. 2017, DeGioia joined the steering committee of the President’s Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, a coalition of higher-education presidents committed to improving dialogue surrounding immigration on college campuses. Last month, he was one of six signatories from the Alliance on a letter to Congressional leaders demanding permanent legislation to protect DACA and DREAMers.
“We know Dreamers as our students, alumni, neighbors, friends and staff members,” the Alliance wrote. “We have seen their potential and know their hunger to develop their talents and use them to serve this nation.”
She said that the university, and her department in particular, was increasing collaboration with Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS), financial aid, and legal aid services to better support DACA recipients at Georgetown. She emphasized Catholic Charities’ memorandum of understanding with the university that would allow students to get free help to explore if they qualified for other forms of documentation or legal relief.
Palacios discussed efforts to mobilize students on campus around the issue. She emphasized the importance of building community on campus and using fun to to support undocumented undergrad and graduate students and take their minds off stressors of the situation.
“Be a friend,” she said.
Fleming returned to the stage and urged the audience to tell the stories of DACA recipients on campus through op-eds in local newspapers, and listed states to focus activism on, tactics for each, and how to determine appropriate timing to send the pieces.
Mizraim Guerrero (SFS ’20), an undocumented student and DACA recipient, said that DACA had enabled him to continue working and attending school while being open about his undocumented status. He encouraged the audience to stay involved, sign up for listservs, show up for rallies, and donate to organizations supporting students like him.
He finished by telling the audience to treat DREAMers no differently from other students on campus. He then reminded the audience to keep using inclusive language and avoid forgetting about the students’ families and other undocumented people throughout the country.
Echoing the sentiments of the various speakers during the session, Palacios directed a message to all undocumented students in the room and on campus:
“We love you and we are here for you.”