College Faculty Senate, College Council Issue Support for DACA Students

Both faculty and student governments in the College have responded with support for undocumented students at Emory following the White House’s Sept. 5 announcement that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program would be phased out.

The College Faculty Senate sent a Sept. 13 letter to University President Claire E. Sterk thanking her for advocating on behalf of Emory’s undocumented students. College Council (CC) also issued a Sept. 22 statement supporting undocumented students.

In its letter, the College Faculty Senate thanked Sterk for reaffirming Emory’s commitment to supporting its undocumented students and supporting the Dream Act of 2017, which would grant permanent legal status to young immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally. Sterk joined 56 other University Association of American Universities presidents in a Sept. 7 letter to top Congressional leaders and wrote a Sept. 6 letter to the Emory community reiterating the University’s support for DACA students.

“Without the Dream Act, those who have come out of the shadows because of the support DACA provides are suddenly at serious risk of deportation,” the College Faculty Senate’s letter said. “These DACA students are an integral part of the fabric of our campus.”

The College Faculty Senate also offered its own support toward Emory’s efforts.

“We stand ready to support your efforts in any manner that would best advance Emory’s support of DACA students and resolve their status so that they may continue to live and contribute to this country without fear of disruption of their lives,” the College Faculty Senate’s letter said.

Kim Wallen, College Faculty Seunate president and Samuel Candler Dobbs professor of psychology and behavioral neuroendocrinology, sent the letter to Sterk Sept. 13 on behalf of the College Faculty Senate. After Wallen had drafted the letter, he sent it to the seven-person executive committee for edits via email. The College Senate’s Executive Council consisting of the president, the president-elect, the immediate past-president and one senator from each division (humanities, natural sciences and mathematics, and social sciences) and one senator at large elected by and from the members of the College Senate, according to its bylaws. The final draft was presented as a motion to the College Faculty Senate, which is composed of 23 senators, and the motion passed unanimously, Wallen said.

Sterk sent the College Faculty Senate a thank-you note, and several faculty members who are not in the Senate have expressed support and appreciation for the letter to Sterk.

“Thank you for the support,” Sterk wrote. “Please share my gratitude with your colleagues. It is comforting to know that the College senate is engaged.

Associate Vice President of Media Relations Nancy Seideman confirmed that Sterk sent the letter to Wallen.

The DACA program, created by former President Barack Obama through a 2012 executive order, is a temporary immigration benefit granted to some undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children. The program offers a work permit and two years of deportation protection. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Sept. 5 Trump’s plan to “rescind” the DACA program.

The College Faculty Senate members decided to send the letter because they “do not see that disrupting education and possibly deporting [undocumented immigrants] is an appropriate response for children who were brought to this country through no act of their own and many of the ones who have lived in this country and regard that United States as their country,” Wallen told the Wheel.

But since they wrote the letter, Trump, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) agreed to quickly push through legislation to protect young undocumented immigrants from deportation during a Sept. 13 meeting, according to The Wall Street Journal.

“There’s some slim possibility that there will be a decision in DACA from Congress which will make further action unnecessary,” Wallen said.

CC also expressed support for DACA students in a Sept. 22 statement.

“The recent actions taken to end the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival) program have specifically targeted the safety and well-being of many of our peers, and we stand firmly against these acts,” the statement said. “We affirm undocumented students’ and DACA recipients’ place in our community and we will do whatever we can to support them through not just words, but actions.”

The letter was written by the entire 62nd Council after multiple weeks of discussion, according to CC Vice President of Student Affairs Tarun Anand (19C). CC members unanimously decided to send out the statement after review, Anand said.

CC has compiled a list of potential initiatives based on the feedback from some undocumented students, the statement said. The initiatives include fundraising for legal aid, helping undocumented students look into accelerated degree programs and conducting a workshop on how to complete DACA renewal applications.

CC posted some resources for undocumented students at Emory on Facebook Sept. 25, including information about legal workshops and legal aid.

Michelle Lou contributed reporting.