To much controversy, President Donald Trump announced his plans to roll back the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy.
Rolled out by the Obama administration in June of 2012, DACA allowed for those who were brought by their parents illegally to the United States to remain in the U.S. under a bi-yearly renewable working permit under condition of remaining in good legal standing.
The Obama administration’s policy allowed for these immigrant populations to remain in the U.S. as students and employees under the assumption that they would behave as upstanding citizens and contribute to the American economy.
Trump’s decision to roll back the policy has been met with outrage on news and social media outlets and has gathered legislators on both sides of the aisle to stand in opposition. Despite Trump’s decision being delayed six months by Congress for a closer look, many college campuses fear their students being forcibly removed from the country as a result.
“We’re looking nationwide. College campuses are a dynamic and fluid place. We are bound by incidents such as these. They definitely have an impact and we respond accordingly,” says Leslie Wong, assistant dean of Student Affairs for Equity and Inclusion, “We look at what is the impact our students and faculty have face, and we look at how do we provide support. How do we find educable moments and create advocacy?”
UMass Lowell administrators say, however, that they have not been phased by decisions like this coming out of Washington. Citing a state of heightened alert since the new year began as a source of preparedness for anything.
“The indecisiveness puts us in a state of emergency preparedness. We don’t have a chance to let our guard down. It could be something else each day. And frankly, that’s fine. Anything permanent and decisive would not benefit our student’s interests. I hope Washington remains indecisive until the next election cycle,” said Larry Siegel, associate vice chancellor of Student Affairs.
The vice chancellor also indicated that such events are, more than anything, an indicator of how inclusive and driven the UMass Lowell student body is. Whether it be a national disaster or the Trump Immigration Order from earlier this year, the UMass Lowell student body steps up to support one another.
“In 2010, we made a very public statement of our values and identify with five, and only five, pillars. One of those five equally important pillars is an inclusive community. We rally around whoever is being oppressed today… We are not going to stop rallying, because it could be anyone tomorrow,” said Siegel.
Wong reiterated saying that “we are a community that steps up. That’s that.”
The White House’s movements this year on DACA and the Middle Eastern Immigration Ban from earlier this year have, however, forced administrators to think of new and unique solutions for bringing substantive resources to effected students.
“Response is important, as well as proactive measures. We work on inclusive curriculum… We’re looking to connect students to legal resources that we believe will provide accurate legal advice. Immigration attorneys are very beneficial in this regard. We’re putting together a ‘Myths on Immigration’ type of event for this semester,” said Wong.
UMass Lowell administrators have had to walk a thin line in recent months in these regards. Being a state and federally funded research institution, the boundary between serving all students in need of protection and ensuring that student aid is not put at risk by those pursuits.
Siegel stressed how much has been thought about and discussed in that regard of late.
“We understand our responsibilities and obligations. Our boundaries. We want to make sure we do nothing that jeopardizes any of our funding or misleads students we are trying to protect,” says Siegel. “That’s the most challenging part of walking the tight rope. You have to stay on course, because often these are competing issues. We cannot jeopardize student well-being.”
Along with ensuring that students felt at ease in terms of recent political and economic tensions brought about in recent months, Student Affairs also sought to assure students that UMass Lowell faculty and staff was receptive to complaints and needs of students by reminding students that administration’s job was to best serve the student body by listening and supporting them.
“Our doors are open. We value our student’s input. Don’t ever hesitate to call on any of us. Faculty, staff, support services. At the end of the day we are here for you. We are here and we hear you,” said Wong.