School districts across the country are responding to concerns expressed by immigrant families as they brace for a Donald Trump presidency, The Washington Post reported. Colleges and universities are also considering next steps to protect undocumented students.
Although Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers have been pretty active during the Obama administration — President Barack Obama deported more immigrants than any other president — families are increasingly concerned about their status under a Trump administration.
Trump’s promise to deport undocumented immigrants and build a wall to keep them out of the country was the central promise of his campaign. With the stroke of a pen, he could also undo Obama’s executive action, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals initiative, which grants temporary deportation relief for some young undocumented immigrants.
This month, Keith Maxwell, CEO of Prince George’s County Public Schools, told administrators and staff that they should ensure the district remains a safe place for undocumented students and their families. District of Columbia Public Schools chancellor, John Davis, wrote a Q&A for the District community reminding staff and families that no one will ask students for their immigration status. He also informed families of DCPS-sponsored workshops, which help them learn more about their immigration rights.
School boards in Minneapolis, Denver, and Los Angeles have also recently taken steps to declare safe havens and remind families that ICE agents are not allowed on campus. California’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson also sent a letter to state administrators that asked them to “remind families about existing laws that protect them and their students’ records from questions about immigration status.”
Students at colleges and universities are demanding that institutions of higher education step up as school districts have and declare their campuses sanctuary campuses. On November 17, students protested at campuses across the country, from New York’s Vassar College and Iowa State University to University of Texas San Antonio. Students asked for their universities to declare themselves sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants, so immigrant students would feel safer attending class.
There are petitions from communities at many prestigious colleges and universities asking for sanctuary status, including Harvard University, Oberlin College, Yale University, Stanford University, and Columbia University, to name a few. New York University declared itself a sanctuary campus earlier this month and Pomona College is still considering whether to do the same. More than 90 college and university presidents signed a statement supporting the continuation of DACA.
DACA benefits both undocumented young people and the economy as a whole, immigration policy experts argue. The economic benefits of DACA vary by state since some states have much larger immigrant populations. But in states with large immigrant populations, such as Texas, GDP growth over a decade is estimated to be $38.3 billion, according to a 2015 Center for American Progress report. The report also estimates that in 10 years, there could be a $17.6 billion increase in income for all Texans, thanks to DACA. Essentially, DACA allows young people to go to school and make more money. This increase in income allows them to spend on goods and services that will in turn benefit the state economy as a whole.
A national survey released in October from immigrant advocacy groups found that 95 percent of respondents who received work authorization and deportation relief through DACA are employed or enrolled in school. Two-thirds of respondents said they received better pay and some respondents said they experienced better working conditions under DACA.