Students without documentation at Georgetown University were met with an unpleasant surprise Easter Sunday morning, after President Donald Trump fired off a flurry of tweets signaling the end to a potential deal to pass a legislative replacement to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, further thrusting the future of nearly one million students into uncertainty.

After wishing the nation a happy Easter early Sunday morning, Trump denounced what he called weak immigration policies. He referenced a caravan travelling through Mexico containing students without documentation who may be seeking asylum in the United States. He also criticized the U.S. “catch and release” program, a policy that allows illegal immigrants deemed to not pose a security risk to be temporarily released in the country in order to free up space in detention centers

He ended his tweeted remarks by blaming Democrats for failing to come to an agreement on an immigration reform bill, urging Republicans to “go Nuclear” and pass a Senate bill with a simple majority of 51 votes, rather than reaching the current 60-vote threshold.

“Border Patrol Agents are not allowed to properly do their job at the Border because of ridiculous liberal (Democrat) laws like Catch & Release. Getting more dangerous. ‘Caravans’ coming. Republicans must go to Nuclear Option to pass tough laws NOW. NO MORE DACA DEAL!” Trump wrote in a tweet Sunday morning.

Trump published another tweet later that morning proclaiming, “These big flows of people are all trying to take advantage of DACA. They want in on the act!”

DACA is an administrative program established by former President Barack Obama that provided work authorization and legal protection to about 800,000 immigrants without documentation who entered the United States as children. It applies only to immigrants who were under the age of 16 when they arrived in the United States in 2007 or earlier.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the rescission of DACA last September. Trump gave Congress six months to create a permanent replacement.

Trump’s comments on the elimination of a deal to replace DACA were felt strongly on Georgetown’s campus.
Luis Gonzalez (COL ’19), a student with documentation and member of UndocuHoyas, found great trouble in the president’s remarks.

FILE PHOTO: ALI ENRIGHT FOR THE HOYA

“This happened right after he wished Americans a happy Easter,” Gonzalez said in an interview with The Hoya. “The compassion and empathy that you associate with Easter was lacking in his tweets. Instead, he’s rallying up his base and throwing ‘Dreamers’ under the bus.”

Ultimately, Gonzalez sees a future without DACA, or a program that is similarly structured, as a disastrous one.

“You’ll have 800,000 people that will eventually not have status and have to go back into the shadows,” Gonzalez said.

Aware of the growing concern of students without documentation, Georgetown University Student Association President Sahil Nair (SFS ’19) and Vice President Naba Rahman (SFS ’19) are seeking to allay fears, assuring the student body that they “stand in solidarity” with students without documentation.

“As we noted during the campaign, the rights of Undocumented Hoyas are the rights of every Hoya,” Nair and Rahman wrote in an email to The Hoya. “We are working with the University to make sure that Dreamers on campus know that we stand with them and will do everything we can to protect them. I can’t imagine how undocumented students feel about these comments.”

Despite floating the prospect of extending a pathway to citizenship for immigrants without documentation, some of whom were previously protected by DACA, Trump has also embraced the option of denying them such status.
Scott Fleming (SFS ’72), Georgetown’s associate vice president for federal relations, is optimistic about the effects Trump’s recent tweets will have on advocacy in favor of DACA protections.

“There are members of Congress on both sides of the aisle eager to pass a legislative solution that protects Dreamers,” Fleming wrote in an email to The Hoya. “We believe the Trump administration’s recent proclamation will only energize advocacy efforts nationwide to protect Dreamers.”

When the stated deadline to find a replacement for DACA came last month, Congress failed to pass a bill that guaranteed legal protection to the residents without documentation. Congressional deliberations were further stagnated by a ruling by the Supreme Court that prohibited the Trump administration from denying new renewals.

“Just as the March 5 deadline initially set by the administration to end the program drove Congress to consider a number of legislative proposals, the recent proclamation will hopefully do the same,” Fleming wrote. “We hope advocates and students will remain engaged throughout the summer.”

The programs and policies in place at Georgetown aim to provide a sense of security to students without documentation, providing them resources to feel at home on the Hilltop and thrive, according to Associate Director for Undocumented Student Services Arelis Palacios.

“Whether it be free legal services through our partnership with Catholic Charities Immigration Legal Services or on-campus advising, we remain fully dedicated to supporting our undocumented students and the unique challenges they face,” Palacios wrote in an email to The Hoya.

Despite the growing concern over developments in the political arena, Gonzalez said such efforts on campus gives Georgetown students without documentation a sense of security, protection and hopefulness.

“I think the university has done a phenomenal job of doing as much as it can to protect Dreamers, and I think it’s gone out of its way through the variety of resources that it’s put together, everything from hiring Arelis as the Associate Director for Undocumented Student Services to partnering with Catholic Charities to ensuring that we have the support that we need,” Gonzalez said.

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