Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.
The United States has always been considered a melting pot of various cultures and people. Diversity enriches our collective national culture, so we should celebrate our differences. It’s the best attribute of this country.
In what seems like a microcosm for the diversity of this nation, the University of Maryland also has a respectable level of diversity, which I greatly admire. The diversity of our students, faculty and staff is what makes us a world-class institution.
Recently, a federal appeals court upheld a prior ruling on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program as unlawful. The program, which former President Barack Obama sponsored, has now been sent to the lower courts to decide the legality of the program and its future. The university needs to protect the liberties of our student body and ensure all students have access to fair and affordable quality education.
What sets this university apart from other colleges is its policy toward DACA recipients. Students who meet DACA status at this university are eligible for in-state tuition.
This is a vital resource for DACA holders because they cannot receive federal financial aid for college. This university’s policy can quite literally mean the difference between attending or not attending college. With the advent of legislation to curb DACA protections, it is imperative the university keeps its current protections intact.
Right now, undocumented immigrants under DACA in this country have their livelihoods threatened, and it’s only a matter of time until students at this university are affected, too. In Maryland alone, there are estimated to be about 7,000 DACA recipients with 13,000 eligible to be under the DACA program. The university needs to uphold its current policies toward DACA students to ensure their ability to receive a fair college education and protect themselves, their families and their livelihoods.
These DACA holders, who were only children when they immigrated to the U.S., are now facing deportation if lower courts deem DACA fully unlawful. This is unfair to DACA holders who have spent most of their lives in the U.S. and have no country, life or family to return to if deported.
Ultimately, we are all immigrants of this country, in some way or another. To remove the status of DACA holders is to take back the initial promises made to them: They would be able to work, hold a driver’s license and live without the fear of deportation. It’s unethical, and it’s morally wrong.
Moreover, the deportation of about 600,000 DACA recipients in this country will severely cripple our economy. We will be losing many integral members of society who held vital positions in state and local communities, such as teachers. The potential deportation of so many individuals would irreparably impact the families and spouses of DACA holders who live in the U.S.
Only a few states in the U.S. explicitly bar undocumented immigrants from attending U.S. colleges. While this policy has not been adopted nationwide, it still severely limits the opportunities and choices for undocumented immigrants in the U.S.
Regardless of immigration status, everyone deserves a fair chance at attending college. In today’s world, economic wellness and quality of life can be heavily dependent on higher education, which makes it essential for equal opportunity.
When colleges and the federal government set policies barring undocumented immigrants from accessing the same opportunities available to U.S. citizens, an equity gap is created.
This is why this university needs to uphold its current policies for student DACA recipients. With the upcoming fight for DACA holders’ right to stay in the U.S. and pursue citizenship and livelihoods, student DACA holders will need to rely on their status as students to remain in the country and continue to pursue the “American Dream.”
However, while the university may be able to uphold its current policies, providing vital assistance to DACA students, this is not a comprehensive solution. More action from the state and federal governments is needed to truly protect DACA holders.
Nevertheless, this university upholding current policy and showing solidarity for DACA students can ensure their lives remain intact in the meantime.
Going forward, the road for DACA holders in the United States is unprecedented and unpredictable. The next few years will comprise a long, arduous fight for all 600,000 members of DACA before they are fully recognized as U.S. citizens. It is imperative this university remains steady in its commitment to provide security and an affordable, quality education to all people.
Dalia Mustafa is a sophomore economics and government and politics major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.