University of Wyoming officials are monitoring changes to the national immigration program known as DACA, while a student group on campus decried the federal government’s decision to eliminate the policy.
“The end of DACA symbolizes the end of achieving the American Dream for those who relied on the program for employment, education, and the hopes of a better future,” wrote the UW chapter of Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan, or MEChA, a group that seeks to “establish an awareness and sensitivity of Chicano values through a variety of different events.”
Last week, President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — a program created in 2012 by then-President Barack Obama — would be eliminated in six months. The program allowed undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children under the age of 16 to enroll in universities, seek lawful employment and join the military.
Trump tweeted that Congress had six months to legalize the program or he would “revisit the issue.” He later added — apparently at the behest of Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi — that there would be no action against the young people benefiting under DACA over the next half-year.
There are over 800,000 DACA recipients in the United States, and more than 600 in Wyoming, according to federal data. It’s unclear how many are UW or Casper College students.
Benjamin Wetzel, the president of UW’s student government, said the effect of the announcement was palpable on campus.
“There are students I know who are concerned about this, concerned about their education, concerned about their families,” he said. “I don’t want to go as far as saying it’s a dark time on campus, but I think there’s definitely tension because of it.”
UW President Laurie Nichols said in a statement that the university is “monitoring DACA and immigration developments.” She urged students and staff affected by changes to the program to contact UW law professor Adam Severson.
She wrote that the university is “inclusive and committed to nurturing an environment that values and manifests diversity, internationalization and mutual respect. ... I am honored to belong to a university community devoted to the higher education of all students.”
Nichols added that the university will continue to respect the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and will “not release student records without written consent from the student or a lawfully issued subpoena, warrant or judicial order.”
In an email that was sent to Casper College students and faculty Thursday, officials wrote they would continue monitoring the situation and encouraged students to reach out to the local office of the Citizenship and Immigration Services and to contact the director of admissions, Kyla Foltz, if they had questions.
In its statement, posted to Facebook on Wednesday, MEChA said it was deeply saddened by the decision to end DACA.
“Undocumented lives matter immensely for us,” the group wrote. “The American Dream has become their dream. Wyoming is their home. The University of Wyoming is their institution. We are dedicated to preserving the dignity of all undocumented individuals in the face of such ostracism, systemic oppression, and collective misunderstandings and prejudices.”
A message sent to the group was not returned Thursday.
The group also expressed displeasure with UW’s student government, which — it suggested — had stalled on implementing a resolution it passed to create a “sanctuary campus” in Laramie.
The student government — officially called the Associated Students/University of Wyoming — put out its own statement, writing that it “stands in support of all undocumented and immigrant students and employees at the University of Wyoming.”
In response to MEChA’s “displeasure” over the sanctuary campus designation delay, Wetzel said he understood their frustration but that he and other members of the student government were working hard with university officials.
The “sanctuary campus” designation can mean a number of things, he explained. It can be as aggressive as a school telling authorities that it won’t release any information at all, or it can be a university requiring a warrant before it will divulge a student’s immigration status.
The university’s board will have to approve the decision to become a sanctuary campus, Wetzel said.
“I think that it will be a battle in the state of Wyoming to reach the level of sanctuary campus,” he said. “That sets a pretty heavy designation. I don’t think it’s going to be something we’ll see, but we’re going to try.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.