The University of Chicago will support legislation that would protect the ability of undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children to study in the United States, a spokesperson said after the Trump administration announced an end to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) on Tuesday.
Congress has a six-month window to pass a bill to preserve the protections of DACA, an Obama-era program. In a statement after the announcement, President Donald Trump said, “It is now time for Congress to act!”
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said in a statement Tuesday that he hopes Congress will find a “consensus on a permanent legislative solution” for undocumented immigrants currently protected under DACA, but it’s not clear what that solution would be or if it would be part of a larger immigration package.
In July, senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) introduced a bill reviving the DREAM Act, which would grant legal status and a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children.
The University declined to support the DREAM Act in 2010, citing the 1967 Kalven Report which recommended that the University generally avoid taking political stances, and University spokesperson Jeremy Manier maintained this position in an e-mail to The Maroon Tuesday.
“The DREAM Act encompasses issues that do not directly affect the University,” he said in the e-mail. “However, in general the University strongly supports efforts to address this issue through legislation that protects the ability of DACA-eligible students to live in the United States and pursue their education and careers here.”
The University is still reviewing today's decisions and may provide further updates, Manier said.
Unlike the DREAM Act, DACA does not offer a path to a green card or to citizenship. It’s unlikely that Trump would sign the DREAM Act if it is passed. White House legislative affairs director Marc Short said after the bill was introduced, “The administration has opposed the Dream Act and we are likely to be consistent in that.”
Trump’s statement on Twitter suggested that the administration was open to some sort of Congressional action to continue protections for those protected by DACA. Cornell University came out in support of the BRIDGE Act on Tuesday, which would protect people covered by DACA from deportation for a three-year period.
The Kalven Report has not stopped the University from lobbying in support of DACA. President Robert J. Zimmer and Provost Daniel Diermeier sent a letter to the White House on Saturday urging Trump to continue the program. In November, Zimmer joined 300 other college presidents who wrote to Trump in support of DACA.
Manier said that the University’s Office of Federal Relations received confirmation from the White House that the letter was received, adding, “The University’s Federal Relations Office leads and coordinates all of this activity on behalf of the University—on this issue as with others—sometimes through collaboration with other higher educational institutions and related consortia, and sometimes on its own depending on the issue and its uniqueness to the University.”
A number of university presidents at peer institutions sent similar letters to Trump on this issue. The presidents of Harvard, Yale, Cornell, Amherst, Duke, and Princeton all wrote letters to Trump in support of DACA.
The University’s Center for Identity and Inclusion has an FAQ on DACA issues with information about legal resources, financial aid, mental health counseling, and the extent to which the University and its police department cooperate with federal agencies.
The University is not declaring itself a “sanctuary campus,” arguing the phrase is not “well-defined.”
The University of Chicago Coalition for Immigrant Rights and Student Government representatives who have been active on this issue did not immediately respond to requests for comment. This story may be updated.