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From Washington to Albany: DACA Repeal Brings Wave of Uncertainty

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For her, the daughter of undocumented Ecuadorian immigrants, a future beyond the University at Albany became foggier last week.

Jhoanna Haro is one of an unclear number of UAlbany students affected by the Trump administration’s recent move to repeal the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, an Obama-era policy which shielded some who entered the country illegally as children from criminal action. 

Fourteen years ago, she came to the United States from Ecuador. Before then, she was raised by her grandparents. Haro’s parents moved to the country after her birth.

Now she fears being forced out of the country or barred from employment after graduation should Congress fail to pass legislation in place of DACA. President Trump said in a tweet Tuesday that he will “rethink” DACA if such happens.

“I’m a regular college student,” said Haro. “I didn’t do anything wrong. I shouldn’t be scared.”

THE NATIONAL STAGE

College and universities across the country last week lashed out against the Trump administration over ending the five-year-old executive order. The University of California went as far to sue the Trump administration (its president, Janet Napolitano, helped put together the program during her term as Secretary of Homeland Security).

Democratic attorneys general from Washington, California, and New York State have threatened to sue the Trump administration over ending DACA. Prior to the decision, ten Republican attorney generals threatened legal action against the White House had the program not been repealed.

H. Carl McCall, chair of the SUNY Board of Trustees, and Chancellor Kristina Johnson on Tuesday released a joint statement supporting Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s threat to sue the Trump administration should DACA be repealed. About 42,000 DACA enrollees are in New York State.

The Albany Student Press requested a comment from incoming president, Havidán Rodríguez, whose term begins this week. UAlbany Communications and Marketing sent a statement from Interim President James Stellar:

“As part of our commitment to inclusive excellence, UAlbany continues to strongly support students who are beneficiaries of DACA. We stand with SUNY and Governor Cuomo against the Trump Administration’s plan to rescind DACA, and we urge Congress to keep these critical protections in place.”

The Student Association has echoed a similar sentiment. President Jerlisa Fontaine mentioned that SA would use every relevant party to protect students from potential deportation and urged lawmakers to shield DREAMers.

“Lastly, we would like to formally urge all legislators to give up the politics of divisiveness and remember that the United States of America was founded on guaranteeing all people with these inalienable rights to life, liberty and, the pursuit of happiness,” Fontaine said.

SA has stirred controversy in the past for taking political positions, especially with last year’s TYRANT resolution, legislation standing against President Trump’s travel ban.

Fontaine has spoken out against the Trump administration over Twitter. She last week tweeted that past and present Trump supporters are to blame for the president “literally erasing everything that has helped people who need it most.”

PREPARATION

After last year’s presidential election, preparing for then-President Elect Trump to take office, talks began within the university over shielding undocumented students. Some like Cara Ocobock, an anthropology professor, demanded that UAlbany become a so-called sanctuary campus.

A petition which requested Stellar to declare UAlbany “sanctuary” status siphoned about 1,000 signatures. Even so, such action could only be directed from SUNY administration.

“We care about them, we care about their safety, and we care about their education,” said Ocobock. “And I think that did come through quite forcefully from the petition.”

In January, the SUNY Board of Trustees approved a resolution reaffirming support of DACA, but did not adopt “sanctuary” status. The term, they said, does not fall under one clear definition.

University officials approached potential Trump administration policies with caution, Sally D’Alassandro, director of Student Care Services said.

Last academic year, university officials met with campus attorneys to discuss possible ways to shield DACA recipients. They ultimately decided against reaching out directly to recipients out of fear that records could be tracked down by the federal government.

“This comes down to that we’re identifying students,” said D’Alassandro. “We didn’t want to be in a position where we were jeopardizing students or possibly facing losing federal aid.”

Student Care Services currently provides confidential support services for DACA recipients.

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