Ohio University Presidents Calling on Congress for DACA Fix

Supporters of the immigration advocacy group HOLA protest deportations in Cleveland in May 2017. [Nick Castele / ideastream]
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Fourteen Ohio university presidents are calling on Congressional leaders to oppose the Trump administration’s decision earlier this week to phase out DACA over the next six months.

DACA is the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Created during the Obama administration by executive order, the program protects from deportation underage youth who were brought to the U.S. illegally.

The university presidents, who are all members of the Inter-University Council of Ohio, and the group’s leader, Bruce Johnson, penned a letter to several notable members of the U.S. Senate Thursday. They include Ohio Senators Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown, South Carolina Republican Lindsey Grahman, and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer.

In it, they call on Congress to find a “permanent solution to this issue,” providing protection for DACA participants and allowing them to finish their degrees.

The Columbus-based advocacy group wrote, passage of legislation at the national level will “fix the problem for public university students in Ohio facing uncertainty over their immigration status.”

“These students grew up in Ohio, they graduated high school in Ohio, and they should be free to finish their education,” Johnson said Thursday.

Ohio State University President Dr. Michael Drake sent a letter of his own to the state’s Congressional delegation Tuesday, urging them to “take swift action” to make the program law.

“Passing legislation to codify DACA protections into law would help mitigate the unfortunate disruption that DACA termination could otherwise have on these young people’s lives and would allow them to continue their pursuit of the American Dream, to our mutual benefit,” Drake wrote.

Cleveland State University is laying out specific guidelines for how it will handle DACA students on its campus.

University President Ronald Berkman said Wednesday currently enrolled undergraduate students will continue to be in the “domestic financial aid pool” for the rest of their enrollment, or eligible for needs-based financial aid like any student who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.

Registered DACA graduate students at CSU will continue to receive their university funding, unless they lose their federal work authorization. Berkman said those students will then be granted fellowship funding to continue their coursework, which does not require federal authorization.

Finally, Berkman said CSU will work to implement programs to support students who would have been DACA eligible and will provide staff to support undocumented students.

Other higher education institutions in northeast Ohio, including Cuyahoga County Community College and Case Western Reserve University, don’t have detailed plans to respond to the Trump administration's decision to end the program laid out yet.

Case said in a written statement it would continue to support DACA students, but did not say what that support will look like.

“These people came here as children.  For most of them, this is the only home they have ever known; they should not be penalized for decisions others made for them,” the university statement read.



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