UIndy responds to DACA

On June 15, 2012, former President Barack Obama announced the creation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. This program was a way to provide protections for eligible undocumented immigrants who came to the United States when they were children so that they can remain in the country to learn and work.

On Sept. 5, President Donald Trump rescinded the order but extended protections for six months to give Congress the option to draft legislation to address the situation of undocumented imigrants brought into the country as minors. Ultimately, the decision about the future of DACA remains with him, as he has the power to veto or sign the bill from Congress into law.

President Robert Manuel issued a formal statement about the University of Indianapolis’ stance on DACA in a campus-wide email.  The statement was signed by deans, vice presidents and other members of the UIndy administration on Sept. 1.

“ . . . the University of Indianapolis reaffirms its support for the protections provided by DACA as a natural extension of our ongoing commitment to institutional values embracing diversity and inclusion,” Manuel’s statement said. “Regardless of the number of students on our campus directly affected by DACA, any efforts made to restrict access to higher education and the opportunities it provides affects us all.”

After Trump handed down his decision, Manuel sent out another campus-wide email explaining the terms of the decision, calling on elected officials to be understanding and focus on coming up with a fair resolution, reiterating UIndy’s support of respectful debate and providing a link to resources for those affected.

“Our University’s mission is constructed on a foundation of welcoming students with diverse backgrounds and who are from a variety of cultures and nations,” Manuel’s statement said. “We remain committed to this inclusive environment. . . . . We will continue to successfully fulfill our mission if we all are able to engage with each other, respecting differences and with the concern for the impact these questions have on the lives of our friends and colleagues.”

Graphic by Melvin Mendez
Graphic by Melvin Mendez

Currently, there is no legal requirement of deportation or any other action against those who are protected under DACA, as the protections have been extended for six months. While the university would have to follow any laws that should be passed, the number of students protected under DACA currently is not known. This situation protects both the students and the institution, according to Vice President and Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer Sean Huddleston.

“One of the things that I really like about UIndy is [that] we don’t know how many DACA students we have here, and the reason we don’t know is because we don’t ask,”  Huddleston said. “I think asking, quite frankly, is as damaging to people who may or may not be here illegally as anything.And so as far as we’re concerned, we are open and welcoming to everybody, regardless of background and identity. We don’t care what a person’s status, background, identity is. We believe that they should have the opportunity to learn because they have the ability to learn.”

According to Huddleston, students have stepped forward and begun to advocate for DACA’s continuation. There are students working with the Office of Student Affairs  on a silent walk to provide education about DACA. Huddleston said that there has been a discussion about doing a letter-writing campaign as well.

“What I love is that the students are the ones who have stood up and have taken the helm,” Huddleston said. “I think we took the first important step, which is we took a stance, we made a statement that definitely enshrined our stance on DACA, but we’ve [also] had students who have come up and come together and said, ‘we want to continue to advocate for DACA.’ So, we’re providing the space, opportunity and guidance for students to be able to do that, to be able to raise their voices. . . .  I think it’s more appropriate for students to really create the advocacy and to create the activism around this, and then we create the environment to allow that to occur.”

Until Congress drafts a bill, Huddleston recommends that affected students and faculty educate themselves about DACA’s protections and procedures over the next six months.

‘Intercom,’ UIndy’s monthly faculty and administrative staff newsletter, has a list of resources that those affected can take advantage of.

Huddleston also encouraged students who believe in upholding DACA to write to their senators and representatives.

“I think the very, very best thing that all of us can do is continue to advocate, continue to raise our voices, and make sure those voices are collective,”  Huddleston said. “I think that’s the most important thing we can do.”

Huddleston said that he hopes to see more student activism and discussion in the future, not just surrounding DACA, but other issues as well. His office is hosting a third Equity and Inclusion Campus Dialogue on Monday, Oct. 9 from 1-2 p. m. in the Schwitzer Student Center Engagement Center to hear from students and faculty and to get feedback on a potential framework of equity and inclusion.

“I see more student activism in the future, which is a great thing,” Huddleston said. “There is a lot of learning that comes out of that. . . . I think we will see more discussion about the things that are happening in our world, kind of outside the university and how those things impact people inside the university . . . . I also hope to make sure that we are raising all points. I hope to be able to see people who might be on different sides of the issue, or any issue, be able to connect and have discussion and debate about it and do it in way that is respectful and certainly in a way that helps us to engage in more discourse.”