CPS Commissions Jorge Constantino Pérez-Rico Scholarship for DACA Student
By Benjamin Pontz, News Editor
- The Center for Public Service has raised more than $100,000 to fund a new scholarship that will be given each year to one student with preference to someone with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status
- The DACA program faces an uncertain future in the Trump administration
- Gettysburg College reiterated commitments made to DACA students last January including access to an immigration attorney and counseling, but is not labeling itself a “sanctuary campus”
Gettysburg College’s Center for Public Service (CPS) has reached a fundraising goal of $100,000 for a new scholarship that will be awarded to a single student each year. Preference will be given to an Adams County or Pennsylvania resident in the United States as part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
DACA, an exercise in enforcement discretion by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that grants certain individuals who entered the country illegally while minors temporary relief from deportation and eligibility for a work permit, faces an uncertain future in the Trump administration. Trump has said his administration will look at immigration “with great heart.” In June, DHS announced it would continue to process DACA renewal applications and abide by the provisions of the initial parameters outlined in 2012 by the Obama administration.
However, DACA presently faces a potential legal challenge from ten state attorneys general, who have said they will pursue legal action if Trump does not begin to phase out the program by September 5. Meanwhile, last month, 20 other state attorneys general sent a letter to Trump urging him to defend the program, and they were followed by 42 Democratic senators with a similar message. Former Secretary of Homeland Security (and current White House Chief of Staff) John Kelly warned, however, that DACA may not survive a legal challenge and would not commit to defending it.
On July 21, two senators introduced the Dream Act, legislation that would provide a pathway to citizenship for those who entered the country illegally while minors. Similar legislation has been proposed numerous times over the past 16 years, and the Trump administration opposes it.
In January, Gettysburg College President Janet Morgan Riggs pledged the college’s ongoing support to undocumented students. Although she stopped short of declaring the college a “sanctuary campus,” citing ambiguity surrounding the meaning of that term, she promised undocumented students free legal advice from an immigration attorney, individualized counseling, and weekly gatherings of support. She also committed the college to “meeting all educational expenses of our DACA students if they would lose financial aid due to a change in their immigration status.”
Jamie Yates, Director of Communications & Media Relations, reiterated each of those commitments from the college in an email Tuesday (but noted that Gettysburg has “never deemed ourselves a sanctuary campus”) and said that services including in-person consultations with an immigration attorney, one-on-one counseling, and weekly gatherings of support occurred both late in the fall semester and through the spring semester of the 2016-17 academic year.
The fundraising effort from CPS, however, is not related to the college’s commitment to replace educational expenses of DACA students lost due to a change in immigration status. Any money towards that purpose would come from the college’s general financial aid budget.
Citing privacy concerns, Yates declined to provide further context regarding a prior statement from Riggs that there is a “relatively small” number of DACA students at Gettysburg.
“[T]his has been a challenging time for our DACA students, and we must continue to provide support and encouragement to them,” said Yates.
As of Tuesday afternoon, 110 donors had raised just over $103,000 towards the Pérez-Rico Scholarship. Kim Davidson, Director of the CPS, said that more than $92,000 was raised from individuals and organizations CPS approached individually before a crowdfunding campaign was launched. The scholarship honors the legacy of Pérez-Rico, who “worked hard to create a sustainable link between the immigrant community in Adams County and Gettysburg College through programming as well as the establishment of the organization Casa de la Cultura,” Davidson said.
Casa de la Cultura holds English as a Second Language classes and swimming clinics, and these are two of the primary ongoing efforts through CPS to facilitate engagement between Gettysburg College and the immigrant community. Other such efforts include the Painted Turtle Farm, El Centro (an after school program), and a migrant education after school program.
“Gettysburg believes that a diverse and inclusive learning environment is essential to academic excellence, student success, and a thriving community,” said Yates. “Inclusion and internationalization are major components of the College’s strategic plan and we are committed to cultivating a diverse, inclusive and welcoming campus community that enables our students to thrive and contribute.”