ADEA Washington Update

President-Elect Trump Threatens to End the DACA Program

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DACAIn the wake of the presidential election, several public and private colleges and universities are declaring themselves “sanctuary campuses,” stating that they will limit their cooperation with federal immigration authorities if President-elect Trump decides to pursue ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and seeks to deport undocumented students.

The 1982 Supreme Court case Plyler v. Doe allows these young people to stay in school, while the DACA program gives them employment authorization, lawful presence and Social Security numbers.[1] Although the DACA program does not mean legalization, it has allowed hundreds of thousands of so-called DREAMers to pursue higher education.

The definition of a sanctuary campus is somewhat fluid and evolving as the Trump administration outlines its policies on immigration. However, many colleges and universities are defining what it means to be a sanctuary campus. Some institutions are creating a sanctuary space that provides legal counsel, while others are pledging to decline to provide immigration information to federal authorities and are establishing a network of alumni willing to offer pro bono legal help to undocumented students. 

Institutions across the country are concerned that the Trump administration along with the support of Congress, could withhold federal funding for colleges by refusing to issue student loans to students at sanctuary campuses or withholding federal research grants. It is hard to predict what the future holds for DREAMers under the new administration, many are hoping for details after President-elect Trump’s January 20th inauguration.


[1] In a 1982 landmark judgement, Plyler v. Doe, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that the Equal Protections Clause requires local school districts to ensure that all children in the United States have access to K-12 education. Plyler v. Doe, however, does not apply to higher education. However, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, when it comes to higher education, three states explicitly bar undocumented students from enrolling in universities: Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina. 

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