Whitman College joins amicus brief in support of DACA

Bhavesh Gulrajani, News Reporter

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On Friday, Oct. 11, Whitman College President Kathleen Murray notified the community via email that Whitman College had joined an amicus brief in support of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) for its upcoming case before the Supreme Court. In total, 165 colleges and universities signed this brief.

The Trump administration rescinded DACA in September 2017. In response, several lawsuits were filed against the rescission. Three cases reached the Supreme Court; oral arguments for these cases have been scheduled for Nov. 12. A decision from the Supreme Court is expected to be made no later than June 2020.

Murray summarized Whitman College’s justification for joining the amicus brief in her email to campus:

“For years, Whitman has been committed to providing a quality education and supportive community for all students regardless of their immigration status,” Murray said.  “Signing this ‘friend of the court’ brief is another way to demonstrate our unwavering support for our DACA and immigrant students. We value every student and it is my sincere hope that all students, regardless of citizenship, will have the opportunity to continue to learn, live and contribute to our community. Without them, we would not be the same.” 

Jennifer Lopez, Assistant Director of the Intercultural Center, provided additional insight into Whitman’s decision for supporting the preservation of DACA.

Lopez mentioned how despite Whitman’s small population of DACA-recipient and undocumented students relative to larger institutions, Whitman does not take its commitment to these students lightly.

She claims that Whitman has been enrolling undocumented students even prior to the implementation of the DACA program. Therefore, joining the amicus brief was simply another step in the college’s continued commitment toward immigrant students.

In regards to DACA recipients and undocumented students, Lopez said, “they are just as much a part of the community as any of our other students.”

Lopez highlights Borders as Methods (BAM) as an organization through which DACA recipients and undocumented students can find support at Whitman. BAM is a student-led group that has been actively raising awareness on immigration issues among peers, faculty and staff. Lopez explains that BAM has been organizing public events, such as last year’s Immigration Week, which consisted of student panels, guest speakers and movie screenings.

“I think [support] is really being generated by our students,” Lopez said. “They are having intentional conversations and are creating spaces for their peers to identify as either DACA recipient or undocumented — to [help everyone] feel that they belong on campus, to feel that they’re welcome here and that they don’t necessarily have to ‘out themselves’ of their identity or status.” 

Whitman’s immigration working group has been coming up with scenarios and corresponding solutions to the prospect of ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) stepping foot on campus. Lopez states that they’ve discussed the logistics, such as how DACA-recipients and undocumented individuals would be notified, as well as how the rest of the campus would be notified. She adds that the plan is still being constructed, but that they’ve currently established who would need to be contacted first.

Lopez concluded by emphasizing how important it is to recognize the implications that underlie the fight to preserve DACA and the rights of immigrants.

“DACA recipients and undocumented individuals — they have a real consequence if they are ever picked up by migrant authorities. They would be deported back to a country of which they do not know, of which they do not call home,” Lopez said. “So that’s a real tangible fear for that particular group.” 

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