By Jenny Smulson, Director of Government Relations, AJCU


Over the next few months, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program will again take over the front page of the national newspapers. For DACA recipients around the country, the issue has remained a prominent concern, given the impact that the soon-to-be-decided case will make on their education, careers and families. A Supreme Court decision that overturns DACA would carry the very real prospect of upending every aspect of life for hundreds of thousands of individuals.

DACA was first established in 2012 by the Obama Administration, to provide protection for immigrants who were brought to the United States as children and who met certain criteria. In September 2017, the Trump administration began the process of rescinding DACA, seeking a permanent end to the program in March 2018. During this time of legal uncertainty, DACA recipients were allowed to renew their status and re-register as part of the program (paying a significant $465 fee), all while continuing to provide their personal information to the government. In June 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court took up three legal cases related to the program’s legality and the Trump Administration’s termination. Now, nearly one year later, a decision will soon be made; there is great uncertainty about the direction the decision will take, and many fear it will not protect DACA recipients.

AJCU has long established itself as a voice on important issues like DACA. In partnership with the education and Jesuit communities, AJCU is dedicated to its ongoing advocacy to protect Dreamers. In 2013 and 2016, the presidents of AJCU and the nation’s Jesuit colleges and universities issued statements in support of undocumented students, affirming the idea that our “communities are immeasurably enriched by the presence, intelligence, and committed contributions of undocumented students,” and acknowledging the extraordinary contributions of immigrants to Jesuit education. Both statements show the presidents’ desire to welcome immigrants, and promote inclusion and dialogue on our campuses and throughout the country.

Last fall, under the leadership of the American Council on Education, AJCU joined 42 higher education associations in submitting an amicus brief in support of the DACA program as part of the Supreme Court deliberations. In addition, AJCU and individual colleges and universities have written to Congress to press them to take legislative action and provide protection for Dreamers. Bipartisan legislation passed the House (H.R.6/American Dream and Promise Act) and bipartisan legislation has been introduced in the Senate (S.874/Dream Act of 2019). The Senate leadership has not scheduled further action on legislation.

On November 12, 2019, the first day of U.S. Supreme Court oral arguments, AJCU joined with the Ignatian Solidarity Network, and other Jesuit friends and allies, to march with the faith community and thousands of advocates to stand up for DACA. Earlier that week, AJCU marched with undocumented students and allies from Georgetown University along their route from campus to the Supreme Court.

As we await a decision by the Supreme Court, strategic engagement as a community is key. AJCU remains deeply committed to working with a broader coalition of education, faith and immigration organizations united in a mission to protect Dreamers, and to advance legislation to retain DACA. Working with this same broad-based community, we will seek to identify ways that all institutions of higher education can support the needs of DACA recipients immediately, which may include directing them to legal services, providing additional mental health support for the recipients and their families, and creating spaces for individuals to tell their stories. Our organization and our presidents will continue to speak out and call for Congressional leadership to support DREAMERS. AJCU will continue to work closely with our Jesuit partners – the Jesuit Conference’s Office of Justice and Ecology and the Ignatian Solidarity Network – to elevate this issue and advocate for a resolution.

There are resources available for those interested in learning more. AJCU has created a resource page on DACA, featuring personal stories from current DACA students and recent graduates who are contributing to the strength and vitality of our nation. Please visit the AJCU DACA Resource Page and check out the Ignatian Solidarity Network’s Humane Immigration Policies page. In addition, the Office of Justice and Ecology within the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States offers important resources on its website, and the American Council on Education’s website is home to the Protect Dreamers Higher Education Coalition. Please check back on the AJCU website frequently, as we will continue to update the page with advocacy information.

AJCU’s engagement conveys a commitment to our campus communities – our students, alumni, staff and faculty – some of whom personally feel the impact of divisive and exclusionary policies that leave them feeling hopeless during this challenging time. We look forward to working with campus and community leaders, faith leaders, Members of Congress, our DACA family and others who stand for justice to protect these individuals whose home is here.