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University President Drew G. Faust sent a letter Thursday to House and Senate leadership asking for “immediate attention” to protections for undocumented youth as legislators debated that issue in an unsuccessful effort to stave off a government shutdown.
Lawmakers failed to reach a deal, and the shutdown is now entering its third day. Democrats and some Republicans initially indicated they would not vote for a bill that does not include long-term protections for immigrants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which grants protected status to individuals who were brought illegally to the United States as minors. The Trump administration announced in September it would end the Obama-era program and imposed a March 5 deadline for legislative action.
Faust’s letter, addressed to House Speaker Paul Ryan, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, asserts that—as time passes without a permanent solution for the program—“anxiety grows” for the thousands of people who rely on this program to remain in the United States.
“On our campus and across the country, these are the students, innovators, professionals, small-business owners, and dedicated workers we see in our everyday lives, as well as the service members we depend on to protect us,” Faust wrote of DACA recipients. “Their contributions benefit us all.”
The government shut down after lawmakers failed to pass a spending bill Friday night. Since then, negotiations over the weekend appeared to shift in favor of passing a temporary budget now and discussing DACA separately in the coming weeks. White House officials have indicated that they will not discuss immigration issues until a temporary budget is passed.
The legislators Faust addresses in her letter fall on opposite sides of the issue—McConnell and Ryan want to pass a spending bill without addressing DACA, while Pelosi and Schumer originally maintained they would not vote for a bill that leaves out DACA protections—Faust said she commended the legislators for their work so far. She also called on them to create a “compassionate and lasting path forward.”
Last week, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a temporary injunction that stopped plans to end the program. That injunction ordered the government to continue renewing DACA and work authorization for eligible individuals.
In light of the Ninth Circuit ruling, Harvard informed students Wednesday that it will begin assisting with renewal applications. In an email to students, Jason Corral, the staff attorney for Harvard Law School’s Immigration and Refugee Clinic, said DACA renewal applications have been posted to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services website. The University currently has around 65 undocumented students, administrators estimate.
Corral invited students with DACA status to contact the clinic for help with the process and wrote that individuals with protections expiring in 2018 will be prioritized.
The clinic has conducted more than 100 legal consultations for undocumented students in the past year. The University also created a website with information for undocumented students and hired a fellow to support them.
Corral wrote in an emailed statement that students have started submitting applications and that the department expects to receive more once more people return to campus for the start of the semester. He also said that, while the Ninth Circuit Court ruling was encouraging, he is concerned federal legislators making compromises on DACA policy will jeopardize the program.
“I worry that immigration hardliners will ask for too much of a compromise that may negatively affect immigration law and policy in the long run,” Corral wrote. “With all of this political wrangling going on the best that we can do is look for remedies beyond DACA and for that I am available to meet with people to look for longer term solutions while assuring that people receive up to date information concerning DACA.”
The U.S. Justice Department has requested a Supreme Court review of the Ninth Circuit ruling, which, if approved, might allow the case to be heard by the Supreme Court before it has been tried in the lower court. There were 690,000 immigrants with DACA status when U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced months ago the government plans to end the program.
—Staff writer Caroline S. Engelmayer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @cengelmayer13.
—Staff writer Jamie D. Halper can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @jamiedhalper.
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