Gettysburg Campus Responds as Trump Ends DACA
By Benjamin Pontz, Managing News Editor
United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Trump administration would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program on Tuesday, prompting rapid reaction from across the political spectrum, including on the Gettysburg College campus.
“I was incredibly disheartened and disappointed because LASA is my family; this is not just political, it is also personal. This decision to end DACA is not only cruel and racist, but short sighted and counterproductive,” said Emily Vega, President of Gettysburg’s Latin American Student Association.
DACA, an exercise in prosecutorial discretion implemented by President Barack Obama in 2012, provides certain individuals who entered the country illegally as children temporary relief from deportation and eligibility for a work permit.
The Trump administration called upon Congress to pass immigration reform, which, potentially, could include codifying DACA into permanent law. Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) hinted Tuesday that he might support such an approach, although he did signal approval of President Donald Trump’s decision.
“Congress needs to pass legislation to accommodate [those who presently have DACA protection] while simultaneously addressing the other challenges within our deeply broken immigration system,” reads a statement Toomey released on Facebook. “President Trump’s decision to end [DACA], while giving Congress six months to come up with a legislative solution is the right step.”
Effective March 5, 2018, the program will begin phasing out unless Congress acts. The Department of Homeland Security will stop accepting new applications for DACA protection, and those applying for renewals must do so by October 5.
Among the 800,000 total beneficiaries of the DACA program are a number of Gettysburg College students, according to Riggs, who reiterated her pledge that such students would have their educational expenses met if the end of DACA caused the loss of financial aid.
“Gettysburg College is committed to meet all educational expenses of our DACA students if they should lose financial aid due to a change in their immigration status. We will also protect the privacy of our DACA students–and all our students–by continuing to abide by the Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA); we will release student records only when required to do so by law,” she wrote in an email to the campus community.
The Gettysburg chapter of the Young Americans for Freedom condemned what they called “political posturing” by Riggs.
“President Riggs has made it clear that, in spite of her egalitarian email, she places a higher priority on those studying here unlawfully,” read part of a statement they released on Facebook.
For her part, Riggs noted that members of the greater Adams County community are also likely to be affected by the change in policy. She called on the campus community to “stand with our DACA students and those other members of our community who are affected.”
Vega echoed that sentiment.
“During difficult times like these, LASA will continue to be a familia and community that supports and loves our peers, faculty, friends and families. We reaffirm our commitment to work with the administration to create a supportive space for DREAMers,” she said in an email. “We will advocate for our DACA students, and provide resources through organizations within the Gettysburg community and Adams County. We are in the process of organizing workshops for DACA application renewals and forums to educate and raise awareness.”
Vega urged campus community members affected by the change not to lose heart.
“You are not alone, this is your home, and we stand by you,” she said. “Please reach out to us; we are both a community and a resource.”