Arizona community colleges and universities urge Supreme Court to keep DACA




    Four public and private Arizona higher education institutions are among the 165 colleges and universities nationwide that have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to keep in place an Obama-era program that temporarily protects some young immigrants from deportation and grants them a work permit.

    In a legal brief filed Oct. 4, Arizona State University, Benedictine University in Mesa and the community college districts in Maricopa and Pima counties argued that rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program hurts the country’s colleges and universities. The institutions said without DACA, many students will be unable to pursue college, and thus deprive colleges and universities from having “thousands of hard-working students each year.”

    “These extraordinary young people should be cherished and celebrated, so that they can achieve their dreams and contribute to the fullest for our country,” the brief states. “Banishing them once more to immigration limbo — a predicament they had no part in creating — is not merely cruel, but irrational.”

    DACA was created by executive order in 2012, and the Trump Administration announced in September 2017 it was officially ending the program.

    Three lawsuits challenging the termination of DACA filed in California, the District of Columbia and New York eventually led to courts prohibiting the government from phasing out the immigration program. Those lawsuits argued that ending the DACA program violated the rights of those covered by its benefits and ran counter to a federal law governing administrative agencies, according to SCOTUSblog. The Supreme Court consolidated those three lawsuits and will hear arguments on the DACA case on Nov. 12.

    The justices will consider whether the court even has the authority to review the Trump administration’s decision to end DACA and, if so, whether the decision to end DACA is legal.

    Last month, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich joined other Republican attorneys general in a legal brief supporting the Trump Administration’s move to end DACA.

    Brnovich told Capitol Media Services, “It’s a matter of simple logic. If President Obama can create a substantive program by himself using the executive power, then why can’t President Trump rescind that using executive action?”

    Arizona has 24,700 residents who benefit from DACA, often known as dreamers. Almost 90% of Arizonans with DACA live in the Phoenix-metro area, according to June 30 figures from the federal government.

    Nationwide, there are 660,880 people who have a work permit and deferred deportation through DACA.

    In the legal brief, the colleges and universities called the move to end DACA a “misguided, arbitrary and capricious decision” that harms not only the immigrants it covers, but the country as a whole.

    “American colleges and universities have benefited immeasurably from DACA,” the brief states. “DACA recipients serve as the presidents and vice-presidents of student governments, publish research in top academic journals, innovate and apply for patents, earn inclusion on the Dean’s List, graduate summa cum laude, and serve as tutors and research assistants.”

    When the Trump administration officially announced the end of the DACA program in September 2017, there were nearly 800,000 young immigrants around the country who benefited from it. In Arizona, a little less than 28,000 people were covered under DACA.

    Immigrant youth who were granted benefits under DACA by 2017 are allowed to continue applying for DACA renewal, but no new applications are being accepted, even if the eligibility requirements are met.

    Two ASU alumni who benefit from DACA were named in the legal brief filed by the colleges and universities: Reyna Montoya and Dalia Larios.

    Montoya is the founder of Aliento, an community group of undocumented immigrant youth.

    In an Aliento press release, Montoya said it was an honor to be named in a document that aims to protect students and their future.

    “The DACA program has allowed me to live without the fear of deportation, financial security, and ability to found my own social venture organization, Aliento,” she said.

    Laura Gómez
    Reporter Laura Gómez Rodriguez covers state politics and immigration for the Arizona Mirror. She worked for The Arizona Republic and La Voz Arizona for four years, covering city government, economic development, immigration, politics and trade. In 2017, Laura traveled the length of the U.S.-Mexico border for “The Wall,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning project produced by The Arizona Republic and USA Today Network. She was named Best Investigative Reporter by Phoenix Magazine in its 2018 newspaper category and has been honored by the Arizona Press Club for Spanish-language news and feature reporting. She is a native of Bogotá, Colombia and lived in Puerto Rico and Boston before moving to Phoenix in 2014. Catch her researching travel deals, feasting on mariscos or playing soccer.

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