Two university presidents in Conway have come out against the recent decision by President Donald Trump to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that was established in 2012 by then-President Barack Obama.
On Sept. 5, 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions made the announcement and defended ending the program that gave around 800,000 illegal immigrants legal status for a renewable two-year term, work authorization and other benefits.
Sessions called Obama’s original policy enactment an "unconstitutional exercise of authority by the Executive Branch," because Congress rejected it on multiple occasions.
University of Central Arkansas President Houston Davis said Trump’s decision to end the program — unless Congress takes action within six months — has increased the uncertainty surrounding students that are enrolled at UCA and other universities in the state and country.
"All of this sheds light on the fact that executive action for or against the interests of these students does nothing to bring clarity to their legal status," he said. "Congress ultimately has to take action in order to find a permanent and legislative solution."
Davis said UCA is committed to supporting its students who are impacted by the DACA rescinding and will assist them as far as the law allows.
"These young women and men make a tremendous impact in our communities and on our economies," he said. "The women and men that fall under DACA are working in our communities, attending our universities, and serving in our armed forces. We are proud of the contribution that they make to our American tapestry."
Davis said UCA is attempting to reach out to any students there who are impacted and wants them to know they are valuable members of the UCA community and represent the great spirit of the nation.
"As a nation of immigrants, we know that these students’ energy, creativity, innovation, and work ethic will fuel the American centuries to come," he said.
UCA posted the statement to Facebook, which has received positive and negative feedback.
One user, Chad Jones, said it was a shame to see what the administration is doing to this group of young men and women who are "trying so hard to achieve a better life," to which user Florence Rappold replied.
"This administration isn’t doing anything do them," she wrote. "They can thank their law breaking parents and Obama for the situation they are in. I am hopeful that Congress will draft a plan to allow those that are here getting an education, working honest jobs, and contributing in a positive way to stay."
Others like user Scott Campbell suggested that help needs to be provided to DACA recipients to get their citizenship, "be it a long or short process," and another user, Amy White, suggested calling state representatives.
Hendrix President Bill Tsutsui also spoke out on the issue and said that the decision goes against the values of the college. He said Hendrix is committed to finding the most effective way to support its affected students.
He said through the next couple of days, weeks and months, he "will strongly encourage our Congressional delegation to work together t0 provide lasting protection and long-term stability" for the hundreds of thousands of dreamers who pursuing higher education and contributing to society.
"They pose no threat to our way of life or the rule of law in the United States; indeed, these young people embody the American Dream and they enrich our campuses [and our society] in countless ways," Tsutsui said.
During a press briefing Tuesday morning, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president made the best decision because the system was "in clear violation of the law."
"There is a misconception that DACA primarily serves as a shield from deportation," she said. "This is misleading. DACA grants work authorization to nearly 800,000 individuals who are not legally authorized to work."
Sanders said DACA recipients, 20s age average, were not an enforcement priority before and won’t become one now.
"The priorities remain the same; criminals, security threats, and those who repeatedly violate our immigration laws," she said. "The main effect of today’s announcement is that work permits and other government benefits are being gradually phased out."
Rather than leave the DACA recipients in "confusing limbo," Sanders said President Trump is putting together a "responsible 24-month phase out," while calling on the men and women in Congress to "fulfill their duty to the American people by truly reforming our immigration system for the good of all people."