Lee's response to potential changes to DACA
Lee University has made no official statement on the DACA issue. Any and all responses on the part of individual faculty members in the following article do not represent an official response from Lee administration.
Amidst the controversy over the potential phasing out of DACA, many at Lee University are raising their voices in support of American “Dreamers”.
Last week, The White House informed the public that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, more commonly referred to as DACA, would begin phasing out. The earliest expirations within the program are scheduled for six months from now.
The DACA program, instituted in 2012 under the Obama Administration, is an executive order allowing certain privileges to procure education and employment to undocumented immigrants who were brought into the country as children.
“DACA gives them a social security number, which doesn’t change their status, but it gives them a document so that they can go to school and get a job,” Lee Assistant Professor of Political Science Dr. Ana Shippey said.
According to Dr. Arlie Tagayuna, associate professor of sociology, the fact that this executive order applies solely to immigrant children offers a “special” situation.
“They come here involuntarily,” Dr. Tagayuna said. “They are not coming here intending to be illegal.”
And for Ana RochaDelgado, a DACA recipient who studies at Lee, the Dreamers program comes with mixed feelings.
“I'm extremely grateful for the opportunities DACA has offered me, but being a DACA recipient is not easy at all, especially as a college student, because we do not get the government funds most students get; therefore, we must pay out of pocket,” RochaDelgado said.
President Donald Trump, in a press release on Sept. 5, defended his rescinding of DACA by arguing the original act was implemented poorly by “bypassing Congress.”
The executive order, President Trump said, was “making an end-run around Congress and violating the core tenets that sustain our Republic.”
“Trump has an agenda,” Dr. Tagayuna said. “He is passing the baton to Congress to expedite the process of what would be the status of DACA — so giving them a deadline and what to do with that is a good thing. Now, it is up to Congress to act on what would be the case for these folks.”
On Wednesday of last week, the president met with Minority Leaders Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to discuss amending his stance on the DACA program. But many Democrats were worried that a deal struck with Trump that would bring DACA back would also include funding for a border wall.
At a press conference following the meeting, Schumer said that the notion of Democrats giving the go-ahead to the wall is completely unfounded.
“I told the president unequivocally, no wall, and he said no wall attached to Dreamers,” Schumer said. “He’ll try to get it somewhere else. We’ll try to fight him somewhere else. He won’t get the wall.”
And according to President Trump, “no deal was made last night on DACA” — meaning the issue of immigration reform still remains within Congress’ hands.
At Lee University, the phasing out of DACA could create some “real issues,” said Associate Professor of Philosophy Dr. Tim Miller.
“Concerning Dreamers at Lee, our approach is that we will do whatever we can to support them and help them," Dr. Miller said. "The president’s actions may complicate our support — for example, in regards to student employment.”
However, according to RochaDelgado, Lee University could be supporting Dreamers more than it currently is.
“Lee University, I don’t believe, knows much about DACA,” RochaDelgado said. “Many people are really uninformed about what DACA is, and it is creating a fear/hatred towards DACA recipients.”
According to Dr. Miller, whatever the ramifications in the coming months, the administration within Lee University will continue to support its students.
Dr. Shippey argued that just examining the legal ramifications is not enough. “People who say ‘but the law’ are not considering other aspects of loving your neighbor, taking care of the foreigner, etc.” Dr. Shippey said.
Even if this were a legal issue, Dr. Shippey argued, President Trump is addressing the wrong problem.
“Most people who are here illegally are here not because they jumped the wall, but because they overextended their visas. If you are concerned with the undocumented that are here, the vast majority are people already with visas,” Dr. Shippey explained.
Micaela Lucas, president of Lee University's Leetinos club, said the contribution DACA members are making in society is one that should not be forgotten.
“In the case of Dreamers, these are young immigrants who arrived without a choice or say but are contributing to America’s society positively,” Lucas said.
Dr. Tagayuna emphasized the social implications of what this change means. “I’m more interested in the humanity of this policy, because as a society we never have the chance to reflect on the people who are in the margins of our society. It’s important for us to see them as human first,” Dr. Tagayuna said.
And while President Trump has made it clear he does not “favor punishing children,” he stands by the law.
“We must also recognize that we are a nation of opportunity because we are a nation of laws," the president said in his press release.
Yet, as Dr. Miller noted, the divide between morals and laws is not irreconcilable.
“In terms of morals and laws, morality is the standard we want to hold our laws to,” said Miller. “So, if you are doing something that is fundamentally immoral, to do it for the sake of the law would be making the wrong trade. We should revise our laws, so that they line up to what is moral.”
“What we have to understand here is that America’s immigration system is broken. It’s the law, and it needs to be followed. But how, if it’s broken?” Lucas said.
RochaDelgado highlights the heart of this issue: “Oppositions will always happen, especially in politics, but this does not mean that we should strip hardworking people from continuing to work towards their dreams, and it certainly does not mean we should lose focus on what is important — unity in Christ.”
Referencing I Corinthians, Dr. Tagayuna said, “Paul said that if we love other people, we are fulfilling the law. I think that speaks about what we are and who we are as a community of faith.”
Recognizing the controversy over the DACA program, Pope Francis on Sept. 11 questioned the president’s self-proclamation as a “pro-life believer.”
“If he is a good pro-life believer, he must understand that family is the cradle of life, and one must defend its unity,” said Pope Francis.
In light of Pope Francis’ recent statement, Dr. Shippey remarked, “Our first affiliation is as a Christian, not as an American. We aren’t Christian Americans, but Christians who happen to be in America. There’s a difference.”
Lucas said students ought to do their part by being aware of the issues that exist outside of Lee's campus — as well as those within.
“As a leader on campus, I’m currently in the process of planning an awareness event with other student leaders; however, a date and time for such an event is still pending,” said Lucas. “Lee University, I know you hear us, but will you act with us?”