President Biddy Martin announced the college’s membership to the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration in an email to the college community on Wednesday, Jan. 17. Her email follows the Alliance’s Dreamer Fly-In, a conference in Washington, D.C. at which college and university presidents urged Congress to pass legislation protecting Dreamers, undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and are protected under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
According to the founding statement on its website, the Presidents’ Alliance aims to “[increase] public understanding of how immigration policies and practices impact our students, campuses and communities” and “support policies that create a welcoming environment for immigrant, undocumented and international students on our campuses.”
The Presidents’ Alliance formed after President Donald Trump’s decision to end the DACA program in September. The DACA program was started by an executive order passed by former President Barack Obama in 2012 to provide temporary legal status to those who immigrated to the U.S. as a minor. In addition to providing legal status, DACA allows Dreamers to obtain driver’s licenses, enroll in higher education and legally work within the U.S. President Trump said he delayed the program’s termination for six months so that Congress could develop a legislative solution. The issue is currently at the forefront of ongoing congressional negotiations.
The Presidents’ Alliance’s Dreamer Fly-In intended “to call on Congress to pass a permanent legislative solution to protect young immigrants known as Dreamers,” according to a statement made by the organization.
“I joined the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration at its inception in an effort to aid public understanding of the extraordinary impact immigration policies and practices have on our students, campuses and communities,” Martin wrote. Currently, 234 college and university presidents are members of the Alliance.
President Martin was unable to attend the fly-in herself, but sent letters on behalf of the college to Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Ed Markey and Representative Jim McGovern reaffirming the fly-in’s mission.
“I am writing to follow up on our letter calling on Congress to pass a Dreamer solution immediately, and before Jan. 19,” Martin wrote in her letters. “The time to act is now … a solution for Dreamers is urgent and essential and should not be encumbered by larger immigration issues.”
Though DACA remains heavily discussed in Washington, Martin emphasized the significance of the program to both Amherst and higher education as a whole.
“Amherst’s DACA and undocumented students, along with hundreds of thousands of others across the country, were raised as Americans and have the right to remain in the place they call home,” she said. “The education they receive at Amherst and colleges and universities across the country is a critical part of their dreams for a bright future.”
Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Norm Jones and Associate Director of Diversity and Leadership Tenzin Kunor stated that the college will continue to offer resources for DACA and undocumented students.
“We continue to fully support our DACA and undocumented students by providing a multitude of resources, including the services of an immigration attorney, individual counseling, legal advocacy and opportunities to be in community on campus and to connect with community-based organizations, among others,” they wrote in a joint statement by email.
They also noted that these resources are listed on the college’s DACA webpage, which is updated frequently with links to local, regional and national resources.
On Jan. 19, Congress’ failure to come to an agreement on the fate of DACA prompted a government shutdown. On Monday, Jan. 22, Congress began a vote to reopen the government after Senate Democrats agreed to advance a stopgap bill and the G.O.P. pledged to continue immigration talks, according to The New York Times.
President Martin encouraged the Amherst community to take action in protecting DACA. “I urge members of our community to contact our lawmakers and ask them to do the right thing: find a legislative solution to the Dreamers’ predicament, immediately,” she said.