As you may know, Pomona College President David Oxtoby issued a statement in support of President Obama’s executive order, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), and asked college and university presidents to sign it.
The first part of the Statement expresses support for undocumented beneficiaries of DACA. The second part speaks directly to “our country’s leaders” to “say that DACA should be upheld, continued, and expanded.”
As an expression of my unqualified support of our DACA and undocumented students, I signed the Statement and would like to take this opportunity to provide a few additional thoughts.
Based on our mission and values, we have committed strong support for our DACA and undocumented students. As Vice President of Student Affairs Sharon Basso outlined nearly two weeks ago, we are doing everything we can to help our students through concrete measures of advisory, legal, and financial support. Therefore, we agree with the first part of the Statement.
The second part of the Statement, however, raises two points worthy of greater attention and discussion.
First, I believe that our DACA and undocumented students deserve stronger support than an executive order that is subject to challenge. DACA alone is an unstable legal framework for securing our students’ ability to study and live without fear of deportation. Because DACA is based on an executive order, not congressional legislation, and relies on the principle of prosecutorial discretion, it is vulnerable to court challenge and repeal by newly elected executives. Sustainable support for undocumented students requires a much greater strategic commitment than DACA—one that engages and persuades our political leaders of the need for a more secure, legislative framework.
Second, I believe that the Statement’s specific advocacy for DACA may also compromise non-partisan values vital to higher education. The institutional endorsement of a specific political remedy may fail to take different views into account. For example, some may strongly support the protection of undocumented students and also believe that DACA represents an unconstitutional exercise of executive power. As an academic institution that believes in the free exchange of ideas, endorsing a specific political position can easily frustrate the critical exchange, nuanced thinking, and open dialogue we need to resolve pressing and complex issues. We are committed to keeping that engaged exchange and dialogue open.
We ask you to join us in our continued commitments of support and resources for our DACA and undocumented students. We also urge you to share your perspectives, contribute your insights, and propose solutions in the national dialogue on immigration law and policy.
Many thanks, and