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Administration reassures students in light of recent DACA ruling

Esther Tang and Christina Tan / Thresher

By Maria Morkas     10/3/23 11:47pm

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas ruled the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program unlawful on Sept. 13. According to this ruling, current DACA recipients, or individuals whose DACA status has been expired for less than one year, can continue to renew their status. However, first-time applications will be blocked.

Established in 2012, DACA is a Department of Homeland Security program that allows undocumented youth who arrived in the United States as children to temporarily remain in the country. DACA recipients must renew their status every two years.

Dean of Undergraduates Bridget Gorman said this ruling does not mean DACA recipients will be immediately deported from the U.S. or lose their permission to work.

“The federal government can appeal [the] ruling to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, and then to the U.S. Supreme Court, so a final ruling probably is at least a year away,” Gorman wrote in an email to the Thresher. “In the meantime, we may see Congress begin, again, to discuss permanent protections for DACA recipients. We will continue to monitor the situation closely and see if there are any other measures Rice can take to help our DACA students within the bounds of the law.”

Rice’s General Counsel Omar Syed said the district court has ruled that the federal government’s creation of the DACA program was unlawful, but the program is not over yet.

“According to the Biden Administration, students who were granted DACA status before July 16, 2021, can keep it until their expiration date,” Syed wrote in an email to the Thresher. “Those students can also renew their DACA status at the appropriate time. Students who never applied for DACA can still apply, but US immigration authorities are not allowed to process their applications.”

Carson Gilchrist, the chairman of Rice’s Undocumented Students’ Support Services Task Force, said this ruling is not surprising, as the decision was made by the same judge that ruled DACA to be unconstitutional in 2021

“In the short-term, there are no new immediate impacts from this decision … Students receiving DACA status at Rice should consider renewing as soon as they are able,” Gilchrist, a Lovett College senior, wrote in an email to the Thresher. “This is because after renewal, you have 2 years worth of DACA. Given the legally tenuous position of DACA as of now, it would be advisable to renew.”

Syed said that DACA students at Rice may be worried about deportation, but the Biden administration has given no indication that will happen. 

“Many students — DACA recipients or not — will also believe the ruling is unfair and discounts their important and fundamental contributions to the Rice community. And many will wonder why Congress hasn’t yet reached a political solution for DACA students nationwide,” Syed wrote.

Gorman said that the Rice administration values students and their studies. 

“[We] realize that the court decision will create more worries for our students who are DACA recipients, and we will continue to support them in various ways, as we have before,” Gorman wrote.”

Syed and Gorman both said Rice has created a website to support students who have questions about the policy and direct them to useful resources.

“In addition, DACA recipients with financial needs can visit organizations such as TheDream.us, which offer scholarship opportunities to eligible students,” Syed wrote. “We are also working to set up legal briefings from immigration attorneys who can provide useful guidance to DACA recipients and others affected by the court’s ruling.”

Gilchrist said the student-run task force is intended to be another resource to support undocumented students and help them understand how their documentation status will impact their careers and post-graduation plans.

“Oftentimes the task force simply connects undocumented students to other people who are able to help more thoroughly, whether they be connected to Rice … or occasionally legal help, through non-profits or the [American Civil Liberties Union],” Gilchrist wrote. “We also host panels with previous Rice students and professors that have experience either being undocumented or working with undocumented people … to inform undocumented students of their prospects for after graduation in very real terms.”

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