In his first interview as president, Donald Trump told ABC’s David Muir that an announcement regarding undocumented youth and immigration should be expected by late February. His campaign promise to roll back part of President Obama’s DREAMer program, which is technically called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). This would prevent undocumented immigrants from getting a driver’s license, legal work and the opportunity to attend college: things that have already improved the lives of some 750,000 undocumented immigrants since the inception of DACA in 2012.
On Thursday, Feb. 2, USF’s Board of Trustees released a statement to reassure students who have been enrolled under DACA. They offered legal protection “to the full extent of the law,” as well as urging “the administration of President Trump to retain and expand the DACA program,” read the statement from Board of Trustees Chair, Stephen Hamill. The Board also looked to endorse public statements made by Rev. Paul J. Fitzgerald S.J. in recent months that affirm the University’s commitment to undocumented students.
Just three days after Election Day, student organization Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA) led a peaceful protest against President Donald Trump inside War Memorial Gym. Before entering the gym, students conjured around Hayes-Healy Residence Hall to make posters and talk about the election result. Fitzgerald also made an appearance, and said he was gleeful to see so many of his constituents upholding “our values as a Jesuit university: the fundamental worth and dignity of every human person, regardless of national boundaries, personal identity, sexual orientation.”
Since then, Fitzgerald has been very active in voicing his concerns against Trump’s proposed order of the construction of a wall between the United States and Mexico, as well as his promise to defund sanctuary cities that protect undocumented immigrants from federal authorities.
On behalf of USF, Fitzgerald joined 600 other colleges and university presidents from public and private institutions across the United States to sign a letter demanding DACA to not only be upheld, but continued and expanded.
He also is a signatory on a letter of support for DACA students authored by the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, and most recently a statement made by the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities against Trump’s executive order that bars citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States for the next 90 days and suspends the admission of all refugees for 120 days.
Back in December, Fitzgerald was also a guest panelist on CNN, where he discussed the idea of sanctuary campuses and told the host that there are about 80 undergraduate and graduate students at USF who operate under the DACA umbrella.
“They have given the federal government their names, their birthdates, their home addresses, in exchange for this promise that they would be allowed to continue to finish their education, get work permits, and then upon graduation, enter the workforce and contribute to the economy of the United States,” said Fitzgerald. “In exchange for that voluntary surrender of information about themselves that they have now put themselves and their families in danger of deportation,” he said.
“Statements have been made by President Trump that he will deport illegal immigrants and that puts a broad concern and fear among these students that they will be considered in that category of eligible for deportation,” Hamill told the San Francisco Examiner.
Fitzgerald recently told the Foghorn that many of the DACA students on campus, “are still in a state of suspense, waiting for some clear signals from Washington, especially in regards the proposed bipartisan legislation that would extend DACA.” While students wait for some sort of resolution, USF’s law school is providing DACA recipients with legal advice and will continue to support them if there is a deportation action implemented. “Our law school is pulling out all the stops,” said Hamill in speaking with the San Francisco Examiner.
MEChA leadership, organizers of the Trump protest inside War Memorial, have been campaigning since 2014 for the implementation of the Magis scholarship fund resolution.
The Magis scholarship fund proposes that each year, $4.00 from each student’s tuition be reallocated into the scholarship fund, in order to support undocumented students who demonstrate financial need but are ineligible to apply for federal financial aid.
In spring 2016, the Magis scholarship fund resolution was approved by ASUSF senate, and then placed on the Spring Dons Election ballot. Undergraduate student voters approved the scholarship fund with a 78 percent approval rate. This past December, the Board of Trustees decided whether or not to begin incorporation of the Magis scholarship into the 2017-2018 academic year budget.
“The hope is that there will be an institutional response and effect so that there are resources available for undocumented students and folks that are being directly attacked by Trump,” said Sonia Hurtado Ureño, vice-president of MEChA de USF.
Fitzgerald recently said that “The Magis proposal is a very good one, and we are certainly already honoring it in spirit,” before confirming that, “the University will award a Magis scholarship to a well deserving member of the class of 2021,” said Fitzgerald.
For any concerned applicant that is vying for entrance next year, USF’s Equal Opportunity and Nondiscrimination Policy states that applicants will never be discriminated against on the basis of, among other identities, their national origin.
Photo Courtesy of Claudia Sanchez/ Foghorn