On Tuesday, President Donald Trump ordered an end to the Obama-era program that defers deportation for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children.
The decision to overturn the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which allows these young adults to work and attend colleges and universities across the country without fear of deportation, could impact members of Westminster College’s community, according to a statement from President Steve Morgan.
“Federal DACA decisions could adversely affect nearly 800,000 dreamers, including a number of our Westminster faculty, staff and students,” he wrote in an email sent to the student body on Sept. 1. “And at Westminster, what harms one of us harms us all.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions publicly announced the move to phase out DACA on Tuesday. Trump made no public remarks on the decision but issued a statement outlining his rationale for the action.
In the statement, Trump framed DACA as an unconstitutional overreach of power from former President Barack Obama, who established the program through an executive order after similar legislation looking to protect young immigrants had failed in Congress.
Trump called on Congress to act and end DACA, promising he would “provide a window of opportunity” for them to do so and that the process would be gradual. He said that his administration would honor existing work permits for two full years until their date of expiration from the day of his speech and would process applications already in the pipeline, as well as “renewal applications for those facing near-term expiration.”
Last December, Westminster became the first institution of higher education in Utah to be designated a “safe haven campus” after Morgan received a petition with over 450 signatures in support of the college becoming a sanctuary campus. ASW also voted in support of the petition.
The safe haven designation means the college will not actively aid in deportation efforts and will require U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials to acquire a warrant before obtaining access to records or campus property. Westminster will also instruct campus security not to act on behalf of ICE.
In January, Westminster hosted a Safe Haven Forum to allow students and community members the chance to voice their concerns and ask questions about the uncertainty of what the end of DACA could mean for the college.
“It’s hard to really anticipate what the next few months might look like as the Trump administration starts to roll out,” Morgan said at the forum. “I know it’s really unsettling for all of us. It’s unsettling for me as the president of this college community to decide what best we can do to help, first and foremost our students, and make sure that they feel safe and that they have the opportunity to finish their education.”
ASW President Ben Pok told The Forum that the student board is looking at additional ways to support undocumented students and hope to take strategies to the state Legislature.
“It is indefensible to expel members of our community solely because of who they are on paper,” he wrote in a statement. “While we steer clear of politics in our missions, political decisions that affect and discriminate against our students will be met with dissent, challenge, and a strengthened promise to remain in solidarity with our students.”
Sabi Lowder, ASW vice president, called the decision to rescind DACA “unjust and inhumane” and, in a statement to The Forum, called on members of Westminster’s community to support those whom the action will affect.
“If you are lucky enough to have been born on U.S. soil, make sure to not only have empathy for those who do not have the same privilege as you do but to stand with them,” she wrote.