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Stepping Up to Protect Those That Dream of a Better Life

Chancellor Kristina Johnson speaks in Washington DC with US Senator Pelosi and other congressional leaders about the Dream Act for DACA students.

A major element of SUNY’s mission is to provide the people of New York with the broadest possible access to higher education. We value all of our students and serve to protect them however we can. Our comprehensive system of diverse campuses helps us meet the needs of both traditional and non-traditional students, but at times, external forces create barriers to pursuing an education for students. In this instance, the outside force is the government and its potential barrier is deportation.

Yesterday (Oct. 25), Chancellor Kristina Johnson joined top congressional Democrats – Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-NY), and Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) – and Chancellor Gary S. May of University of California, Davis, among others at a press conference on Capitol Hill to vocalize her support of “Dreamers” and legislation that will provide them the opportunity to stay in the United States and complete their education.

Currently, hundreds of thousands of “Dreamers,” young undocumented immigrants who are a part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, may lose their ability to work, study, and live in the United States, after the Trump administration announced it was rescinding the program this past September. Roughly 700,000 immigrants are protected by DACA, which allowed recipients to obtain valid driver’s licenses, enroll in college, and legally secure jobs, according to CNN. Unfortunately, the program didn’t provide a path to become US citizens or legal permanent residents, so if Congress doesn’t act by March 6, approximately 30,000 DACA recipients a month for the next two years will lose their permits and their ability to complete their education.

“My grandparents came to America through Ellis Island, and like many children of immigrants, my mother pursued education as a way to better herself, her family, and her community. The privilege to do this – to pursue the American Dream – is one that our nation promised to DACA enrollees. It is a privilege that, today, Congress can and must act to protect,” said Chancellor Johnson. “As chancellor of the country’s largest comprehensive system of public higher education and the granddaughter of immigrants, I am proud to stand with students, colleagues, and federal representatives in today’s call for the immediate passage of the Dream Act.”

After receiving their education, Dreamers also greatly contribute to our workforce and economy. As Chancellor Johnson noted on Wednesday, “… it is stated that if we remove the DACA enrollees from our gross domestic product it would cost the country hundreds of billions of dollars over the next ten years.”

Many SUNY presidents share Chancellor Johnson’s support for DACA and Dreamers as well.

Supporters speak out

“As a university leader, I have seen first-hand DACA’s transformative power on the lives of students,” said University at Albany President Havidán Rodríguez. “We must urge Congress to uphold and continue this critical policy—which not only benefits the Dreamers but also cultivates inclusive excellence in our communities, our institutions of higher education, and our local economies.”

“On behalf of the University at Buffalo, I once again would like to publicly express my support for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program,” said University at Buffalo President Satish Tripathi. “All students, including DACA students across our state and our nation, should have the opportunity to pursue their educational goals and their professional aspirations. The University at Buffalo is committed to a diverse and inclusive campus community, and we urge Congress to protect the earned rights of New York State’s 42,000 DACA enrollees.”

“High achievers in the American education system, brilliant innovators passionate about uncovering the next lifesaving drug and life-enhancing technology, and compassionate members of our community; these are the Stony Brook University DACA students,” said President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D. “They are in our classrooms, proudly walking the University’s campus, and graduating with honors from many of our programs, making our University better, but facing an uncertain future. Acting now is the right thing to do for these young scholars, and for the future of our country.”

At Wednesday’s conference, Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-NY), the first undocumented member of Congress who knows what it takes to succeed in this environment, also prompted listeners to act now, “Lives are at stake and it is critical that we work to find a solution to our broken immigration system. We must act quickly to protect DREAMers and immigrant families.”

Take action

To do your part to help your fellow classmates and community members, you can take action too. The American Council on Education has made it easy to contact Congress by providing a message template and pre-crafted tweet. In doing so, you will join the many voices speaking out to help protect the status of Dreamer students within the SUNY system and beyond.

There is also information available on policies and procedures for students, faculty, and staff in the SUNY immigration resource.

Finally, you can view yesterday’s press conference in it’s entirety below:

    Big Ideas

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      Big Ideas is the Blog of The State University of New York, published by the Office of New Media.

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