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Education, "dreamers", and DACA

Dear University of Maryland community: 

This is a time of grave uncertainty and vulnerability for our students on DACA status. They deserve our support and our country needs them.

DACA is the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. In 2012, President Obama issued an executive action that defers deportation of undocumented youth via the stop-gap measure of 2-year renewable work permits, enabling them to emerge from the shadow of the law. The next administration could rescind it with the stroke of a pen. ​

For most of the undocumented students who came to the U.S. as children, and were raised and attended school here, ours is the only country they have known. In effect, they have grown up as Americans. DACA recipients are law-abiding young men and women. According to the U.S. government, they pose no risk to public safety. Some have served in our armed forces. They want to study, work, and contribute to our society and economy. 

This is why the State of Maryland, and other states, enacted "Dream Act" legislation.  It allows undocumented students to pay in-state tuition and be eligible for state-funded financial aid at a four-year college, provided that they meet specific requirements (such graduating from a community college and having a tax-paying parent).

The Association of American Universities (AAU), comprised of the leading research universities in the country, has declared its support for "creating higher education opportunities for undocumented students." 

As the state's flagship institution and an AAU member, UMD is committed to reaching out and providing educational opportunities to academically-qualified persons of all backgrounds and walks of life. We are an immigrant nation, one formed from many. In our democracy, we are all in it together; we have responsibilities to each other. 

UMD championed the Maryland Dream Act of 2012. Since its enactment, about 20 "dreamers" have enrolled here. We have a little over 100 students on DACA status.

Last Saturday, UMD hosted a college fair on campus, co-sponsored with Prince George's County elected officials, public schools, businesses, and colleges from around the region. It drew scores of Latino(a) high school students and their parents. They came to learn about educational opportunities and support services. As I welcomed them, I was moved by their fears and hope for the future.      

Creating educational opportunities for all the people in Maryland is not only the right thing to do. It is also the necessary thing to do if we are to achieve our nation's and our state's goal of producing by 2020 the highest proportion of college graduates in the world. This goal is essential to our economic future and global competitiveness. 

I ask that the UMD community call on the leaders of our nation to continue the DACA youth initiative. We must ask our Federal officials to at least honor the grants of deferred action already approved until such time as Congress enacts immigration reform legislation. I also ask that we call on the business, civic, and religious communities to join in voicing their support.

En solidaridad y en esperanza (In solidarity and in hope),


Wallace D. Loh
President, University of Maryland