Following Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential election last Tuesday, students and faculty at Columbia have expressed concern that undocumented students could lose work eligibility or face deportation.
Trump has threatened to repeal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a law signed by President Obama in 2012 that protects young undocumented immigrants from deportation and permits them to work. DACA protects people who moved to the United States before they were 16 years old and had no lawful status before January 2012.
If DACA were to be revoked, those it protects would no longer have access to driver’s licenses, credit cards, or employment. Some may also be at risk for deportation, including those who have lived in the United States for the majority of their lives. A University spokesperson did not immediately provide information on the number of undocumented undergraduates at Columbia. For context, the Harvard Crimson reported in September that 40 students at Harvard College are undocumented.
Miguel Colin, CC ’19, is an undocumented student currently protected by DACA.
“[Without DACA] I would obviously not be able to work, I would not be able to drive because my old driver’s license would be voided. I wouldn’t be able to travel in the country. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have access to credit cards anymore,” Colin said.
Colin currently works an on-campus job to support himself. He said that without his job, he would not be able to cover the full costs of living in New York.
“Under DACA I am able to legally work at Columbia at a casual on-campus job,” Colin said. “What that does is essentially provide me spending money, whether it’s to go out to the city to buy groceries or to do anything.”
As of Monday morning, a petition titled “Letter Regarding DACA Students” had received more than 2,500 signatures from numerous students, alumni, allies, and faculty.
The petition, created by Barnard professor Nara Milanich and Columbia professor Mae Ngai, calls on the University to ensure these students will continue to receive financial aid even if DACA is revoked. It also suggests the University provide stipends in exchange for former DACA students’ participation in research or other educational projects to supplement their loss of employment.
A separate petition called the “Columbia Sanctuary Campus Petition,” created by the student group Undocumented Student Initiative, urges the administration to ban immigration enforcement officials from campus, withhold student information from immigration enforcement officials, and publicly declare its support for the protection and path to permanent status of undocumented students.
A University spokesperson confirmed that financial aid grants will continue to be granted to Columbia College and School of Engineering and Applied Science students regardless of DACA status, but did not immediately provide information about whether the University was looking into further measures to support undocumented students.
“Any university that wants to claim to welcome undocumented students needs to put their money where their mouth is and make different kinds of funding available to students,” Milanich said.
Ngai, like Milanich, agrees that the University must continue to recognize the needs of undocumented students and uphold the promises it made when these students were first accepted.
“We welcomed these students to Columbia, and we gave them financial aid. We have to see that commitment through,” Ngai said. “That’s the point of principle—that we want these students to come to the University and we should continue to support them.”