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Carleton affirms support for DACA students

<an style="vertical-align: baseline">On September 5, President Donald Trump announced that the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program will end after six months. The DACA program shields undocumented citizens who arrived as children before May 1, 2007 from deportation—a group of nearly 800,000 young adults and children.

The Carleton administration sent an email on September 5 to affirm their support for DACA students at Carleton. Carleton believes the decision to end DACA is “deeply-flawed educationally, wrong, and cruel,” according to the email from President Poskanzer, Dean Livingston and Dean Nagel. The email also highlighted resources available to DACA students, including emergency funding and a website dedicated to DACA assistance.

In addition to the campuswide email, Livingston reiterated Carleton’s dedication to DACA students during the general peer leader training, the day before first years moved in, and during the welcome for new students and parents.

“I really appreciated when Dean Livingston took time to address [DACA] publicly, especially during New Student Week welcome and the Peer Leader Orientation. That was something new that we hadn’t really seen before,” said Amairany Fuentes ’19, a leader of the student organization CAUSE, which works to raise awareness about DACA.According to Fuentes, the administration had previously focused on private communication with DACA students, instead of public discussion of college policy and the action plan if DACA is repealed or changed.

Dean Livingston recently met with every DACA student to discuss next steps. DACA students are given a two year authorization by Homeland Security, and some students’ authorizations will expire in the next six months. When DACA ends in six months, renewal of DACA status will not be possible.

“Renewal is not an extensive process but the renewal fee is $495 per DACA student, every two years, so if you can think about 800,000 DACA students, our government has collected 350 or 360 million dollars in just renewal fees. So, they pay to be here. We’ve helped with that, we’ve covered the cost using emergency funding,” said Livingston.

The renewal process requires students to undergo a biometric examination, including finger printing, weight measurements, and a short interview. Moreover,the biometric examination cannot be done in Minneapolis for many students. Instead, they must get the exam at the Homeland Security office nearest to their home city. “You’re given about a two week’s notice, if that, to show up for those biometric examinations,” said Livingston. “So we’ve flown students to Louisiana, and it’s all of 10 minutes. Some students are now able to do it in Minneapolis, but for the most part you have to go back to your home state. So, we pay for the flight.”

Some DACA students have found this one-on-one assistance and emergency funding helpful. “They’ve been really helpful and I think they’ve helped a lot of students through the renewal process and the reapplication process because that is very pricey,” said Fuentes.

The Dean of Students office has also pledged its assistance by saying,“Once a Carl, always a Carl.”

If DACA were to end without a congressional replacement, DACA students would no longer be able to work during the school year or during the summer. The college would supplement DACA student financial aid packages to replace employment earnings with grants.

Given the recency of Trump’s announcement, there are a few items that the college needs to address further as it plans for possible outcomes, according to Fuentes. For example, if a student cannot return home due to possible travel restrictions, will the college provide housing?

A repeal of DACA would not only greatly impact the students already enrolled at Carleton, but also impact the next year’s incoming class. According to Vice President and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Paul Thiboutot, “As of right now, nothing will have changed for how we approach students in admissions. If they have DACA status, we will still honor it.”

Some applicants for the class of 2022 may already have DACA status, as students can apply well before beginning the Carleton application process. However, after Trump’s announcement on September 5th, eligible high school seniors can no longer apply for DACA status, said Thiboutot.“If you ask me, what happens if DACA goes away entirely if Congress does nothing, we are going to treat what is an undocumented student like an international [student].They’ll have to compete for admission among international students, which is what we did prior to DACA coming into existence,” said Thiboutot.

“It is that simple for us right now, in terms of a policy statement.It is not that simple in terms of where my heart goes,” he said,emphasizing not to confuse the two. “If I didn’t compose myself, I might be crying as a result of what the Trump administration is doing.”

For students who hope to get involved, Fuentes urged those interested to first educate themselves on DACA. “Whether that is taking two minutes to Google what DACA is, because it does take a huge emotional toll on a person when you have to constantly explain your situation,” she said.“The number one thing that we have to keep in mind, especially as allies, is that we need to listen to the people that are the most affected and what they need and what they see as more prudent to do at the time. I know that a lot of the time as allies, we tend to want to jump and start protesting day one and sometimes that is not what is needed in these communities,” Fuentes said.

Students can join CAUSE, which currently includes about 20 regular members. Meeting times are still undetermined. The organization hosts events throughout the year, such as Undocumented Student Awareness Week and various guest speakers.

Fuentes also hopes that the organization can help to build a stronger community. “Right now, at least, I feel that we don’t really know what our fight is per say. We don’t really know. It has been exhausting working around this issue for two years now on top of classes and other orgs that I’ve been working on, so definitely trying to build a more cohesive community around DACA students, whether it’s just having a dinner, sitting down with them and talking about it because I think it is something that’s necessary, especially in light of a lot of things. We just need time to step back and kind of just process things a little bit,” said Fuentes.

Minnesota Congressman Jason Lewis, who represents Carleton’s district, has agreed with Trump’s decision to end DACA. He believes that federal law-making authority belongs to Congress and has co-sponsored a bill to allow undocumented immigrants who arrived as children to become citizens, provided that they serve in the U.S. military.

Last week, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer met with Trump to discuss a deal to give DACA immigrants legal status. The lawmakers failed to reach a deal, placing the future of DACA in further uncertainty.

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