President-elect Trump has vowed to cancel DACA—Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals—which President Obama put into place by Executive Order in 2012. As you know, DACA grants reprieve from deportation and authorizes undocumented youth to lawfully work, hold driver’s licenses and bank accounts, and travel. There are some 750,000 DACA youth in the country. Although we lack specific data, we are aware that Columbia has many DACA students, both undergraduate and graduate students. What will happen to them when DACA is canceled and they fall out of status? President-elect Trump has promised to cancel DACA on his first day in office. Even if he does not cancel DACA immediately, we can expect that he will let it expire. Either way, our students are imperiled. They are speaking to us in our classes and in our offices with anxiety and fear.
Our immediate question concerns what will happen to DACA students’ financial aid packages and graduate fellowships if they fall out of status? We urge you to take immediate steps to ensure that these students will continue to receive their financial aid and fellowship stipends by creating special funds, segregated from federal monies, for such purposes, or by whatever measures the University deems appropriate to continue the students’ aids.
Canceling DACA will also invalidate these students’ ability to work. Many of our students hold part-time jobs to help them through college and/or to support their families. They face the prospect of having to work in the exploitative informal sector in order to survive. We recommend the creation of special funds that can offer “stipends” to these students, which they can receive in exchange for performing research assistance to faculty members or other meaningful and educational projects.
Our DACA students may fall out of status as early as January 20, 2017. We urge you to act expeditiously to make arrangements that will ensure that the students whom we welcomed to Columbia and pledged to support with financial aid will continue to receive our welcome and our support.