UD and DSU back federal policy to delay deportations

Dennis Assanis

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Harry Williams

DOVER — The presidents of Delaware’s two public universities have signed a petition in support of an Obama administration policy that pushes back deportation, possibly indefinitely, for people in the country illegally.

Both University of Delaware President Dennis Assanis and Delaware State University President Harry Williams are among the 550-plus university officials from around the country who have signed the Pomona College petition.

The appeal urges Republican Donald Trump, who will be sworn in as president next month, to uphold the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a policy adopted by the Democratic Obama administration in 2012 regarding children brought into the country illegally.

Individuals who unlawfully entered the United States before age 16, have lived in the country since at least 2007, have no significant criminal convictions and obtained or are working toward a degree or served in the military are eligible to avoid deportation for two years.

The two-year period can be renewed, and participants also can gain a work permit through the program.

President-elect Trump has been a strong supporter of deporting immigrants who entered the United States illegally.

The petition, which has been signed by presidents from Harvard University, the University of Texas and Temple University, touts the benefits of the DACA program.

“The core mission of higher education is the advancement of knowledge, people, and society. As educational leaders, we are committed to upholding free inquiry and education in our colleges and universities, and to providing the opportunity for all our students to pursue their learning and life goals,” the petition states.

“Since the advent of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in 2012, we have seen the critical benefits of this program for our students, and the highly positive impacts on our institutions and communities. DACA beneficiaries on our campuses have been exemplary student scholars and student leaders, working across campus and in the community. With DACA, our students and alumni have been able to pursue opportunities in business, education, high tech and the non-profit sector; they have gone to medical school, law school and graduate schools in numerous disciplines. They are actively contributing to their local communities and economies.

“To our country’s leaders we say that DACA should be upheld, continued and expanded. We are prepared to meet with you to present our case. This is both a moral imperative and a national necessity. America needs talent — and these students, who have been raised and educated in the United States, are already part of our national community. They represent what is best about America, and as scholars and leaders they are essential to the future.

“We call on our colleagues and other leaders across the business, civic, religious and non-profit sectors to join with us in this urgent matter.”

A spokeswoman for the University of Delaware’s Dr. Assanis referred to the petition instead of offering a comment.

Delaware State’s Dr. Williams said in a statement supporting the policy is the right thing to do.

“These are young people who as children came to the United States with their parents who were illegal immigrants. As children, they didn’t have any choice,” he said. “We have 34 DACA students — all of whom excelled academic in public school systems around the country — who are currently enrolled at DSU and we don’t want to see their higher education pursuits halted. They have already shown themselves to be good young citizens and they shouldn’t be penalized for actions that were not their fault.”

A separate petition circulating around the University of Delaware, signed by more than 1,000 faculty members, students and others, urges the university to develop “a pact of non-compliance with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, refuse to release information regarding immigration status of UD community members, regulate the presence of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials on campus and work closely with Newark Police to pledge that neither they nor the institution will assist or cooperate with ICE to conduct raids, detentions or deportations of immigrants.”

Some institutions around the country, such as the California State University system, have declared themselves sanctuary universities, meaning they will not cooperate with law enforcement to arrest immigrants in the country illegally unless commanded to do so.

“On the sanctuary petition, we understand and share the concerns expressed by petitioners for those members of our community who are undocumented,” a UD spokeswoman said in an email. “A member of the administration met with the lead signatories this month to begin dialogue on this matter.”

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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