Dartmouth signs amicus brief supporting DACA

by Alex Fredman | 7/25/18 1:23pm

Updated July 11, 2018, 5:51 p.m.

Dartmouth has signed on to an amicus brief alongside 18 other universities supporting the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in federal court. The brief was filed on July 20 in the U.S. District Court for Southern Texas, Brownsville Division in a court case brought by Texas and six other states challenging the legality of DACA, a program that protects undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children from deportation.

"As an institution, we view the continuation of DACA as both a moral imperative and a national necessity," College spokesperson Diana Lawrence wrote in an email statement. "We are a community that values diversity with the knowledge that it significantly enhances the quality of an education, and DACA therefore is a contributing factor to the success of the College."

In the brief, the universities wrote that DACA students are some of the most talented members of their institutions and that a federal injunction against DACA would harm students, alumni and the institutions as a whole.

“Indeed, ending DACA would force future scholars, innovators, and leaders to choose between withdrawing to the margins of our society and national economy or returning to countries that they have never called home,” the brief states. “Whatever they choose, their gifts and education will be lost to this nation.”

The brief included a list of DACA students from the signatory universities who “were selected because they are outstanding students.” One of the students listed is Barbara Olachea Lopez Portillo ’19, whom the brief describes as “the valedictorian of her high school class in Phoenix, Arizona, the secretary of her school’s student government, and an active participant in various other extracurricular activities, including Inspire Arizona, an organization that promotes civic engagement.”

“Being at Dartmouth has definitely given me a lot of opportunities and a lot of credibility that comes with obtaining an education at a prestigious institution,” Olachea said in an interview with The Dartmouth.

Olachea said she came to the United States with her family at age five and soon understood that it would take extra effort to succeed in this country.

“From a young age, I realized that I had to excel in order to have the opportunities that I wanted to have,” Olachea said.

At Dartmouth, Olachea said she has been open about her DACA status and is involved with the student group CoFIRED, which advocates for undocumented students. She added that she appreciates that Dartmouth admits undocumented students, but that the College administration could be more vocal in its advocacy for those students on campus.

Olachea noted that if DACA were rescinded, she would potentially lose her work permit and accordingly her campus job, which would jeopardize her ability to continue her education.

“With not being able to work, it would be very difficult to finish my education because there’s so many little costs that you have to account for,” Olachea said.

The amicus brief is not the first time Dartmouth has weighed in on the topic of immigration in the last couple of years. In Feb. 2017, the College joined with 16 other universities in another brief challenging the legality of President Donald Trump’s executive order barring immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries. In March 2016, the College filed an amicus brief encouraging DACA's expansion.

In Sept. 2017, College President Phil Hanlon wrote an email to campus expressing disappointment with Trump’s decision to eventually end the DACA program, urging the president “to continue DACA in its current form and to do everything in [his] power to defend it.”

The other signatories of the brief are Brown University, California Institute of Technology, Columbia University, Cornell University, Duke University, Emory University, Georgetown University, George Washington University, Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northwestern University, Princeton University, Stanford University, University of Chicago, the University of Pennsylvania, Vanderbilt University, Washington University in St. Louis and Yale University.

Olachea is a former member of The Dartmouth staff.

This article will be updated as more information becomes available.