GUHereToStay, a weeklong Georgetown University Student Association campaign launched Monday, engaging students and administrators to urge Congress to pass the Dream Act of 2017.

The campaign marks GUSA’s latest and most aggressive efforts to push for a law protecting undocumented students from deportation after the Trump administration rescinded the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The campaign parallels months of university lobbying efforts led by University President John J. DeGioia.

The week consisted of events and social media initiatives including a phone bank, letter writing to members of Congress and a video, which raised awareness about the Dream Act and pressed Congress to pass the bill. GUSA worked with the Office of Federal Relations and Arelis Palacios, the associate director for Undocumented Student Services, to organize the week.

“They have helped us identify the needs of undocumented students on campus and target particular members of Congress who will be key in passing the DREAM Act,” Aaron Bennett (COL ’19), GUSA executive press secretary wrote in an email to The Hoya.

ALI ENRIGHT FOR THE HOYA
The weeklong GUHereToStay campaign featured a “Dream Wall” in Red Square, where students wrote messages of support to the undocumented community.

The GUHereToStay week also fetatured students signing cutouts of almost 500 butterflies, a symbol representing DACA recipients or “Dreamers.” The GUSA Federal and D.C. Relations Committee plans to turn these butterflies, signed Thursday, into a chain and deliver them to Capitol Hill today along with student letters to their representatives.

GUSA Cosecretary of Congressional Relations Chas Newman (MSB ’18) said the butterflies represent the depth of support for “Dreamers” on campus and demonstrate the effect that advocacy campaigns on campus can have on the federal government.

Introduced by Democratic Senator Dick Durbin (SFS ’66, LAW ’69) of Illinois and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the Dream Act would extend and enhance the protections provided by the Obama-era DACA program rescinded by the Trump administration in September.

The bipartisan bill would offer protection from deportation and the potential for permanent residence to immigrants and DACA recipients who do not have a criminal record, have high school diplomas, are currently attending school and have lived in the United States continuously for at least four years.

Members of Congress who support the Dream Act plan to vote on the bill in the coming week to establish a permanent replacement for DACA, which is set to expire March 5.

Rebecca Hinkhouse (SFS ’19), director of the GUSA Federal and D.C. Relations Committee, said the GUHereToStay campaign is more aggressive than previous efforts by GUSA to encourage Congress to pass the Dream Act.

“Now that there’s a potential for the Dream Act to be passed in December, we wanted a big huge push,” Hinkhouse said. “We wanted something bigger and better than just letter writing, and we wanted to educate students and engage students so we came up with this week of activities.”

The advocacy week came after months of working to advocate for protecting undocumented students through DACA and now the Dream Act, according to Hinkhouse.

In September, GUSA partnered with the Office of Federal Relations and UndocuHoyas to hold an ongoing letter-writing campaign called “Friends of Dreamers” in support of the Dream Act.

The university administration has shown its support of undocumented students by establishing a role for a full-time associate director for undocumented student services in September 2017. DeGioia has also expressed his support for “Dreamers,” condemning the termination of DACA and leading the administration’s push for legislation to protect undocumented students.

WILL CROMARTY/THE HOYA The GUSA Federal and D.C. Relations Committee hold a chain of almost 500 paper butterflies, signed by students, outside the Capitol Building on Friday.

GUSA Vice President Jessica Andino (COL ’18), who has advocated for undocumented students, said this campaign highlights the importance of passing the Dream Act in the face of the fast-approaching end of DACA protections.

“It’s bringing light to how important the issue is,” Andino said. “Since the deadline to renew DACA has passed, now we’re in a limited time frame to try to find a solution, and it’s just increased advocacy so people who receive DACA can receive those protections again.”

DACA currently protects about 800,000 undocumented immigrants from deportation. No new applications for protection under DACA were accepted after Sept. 5, and renewal applications for DACA status were not accepted after Oct. 5. Unless Congress passes a replacement bill, previous DACA recipients are expected to lose their protection over the next two years.
Scott Fleming, associate vice president for federal relations at Georgetown, said if the Dream Act does not pass, Georgetown’s advocacy efforts would continue.

“If, by some chance, the legislation isn’t final by the time Congress adjourns in December, we will, of course, continue vigorous advocacy after the first of the year as the March 5 deadline approaches,” Fleming wrote in an email to The Hoya.

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