President Hanlon responds to rescinding of DACA
President Donald Trump’s Sept. 5 order to end the Obama-era policy of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals raised alarm for the College’s students with DACA or undocumented status. That evening, College President Phil Hanlon sent a campus wide email stating that he was “deeply disappointed in President Trump’s decision.” Hanlon had unsuccessfully urged the president “to continue DACA in its current form and to do everything in [his] power to defend it” in a Sept. 1 letter.
“Given that most of these students came to our country as young children, America is the only home they’ve ever known,” Hanlon wrote. “To deny them the opportunity to continue to advance their studies is to deprive our country of the innovation, determination and diversity of human talent that make America the greatest and most prosperous country in the world.”
Enacted by former President Barack Obama in 2012, DACA allows undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children to request deferred action from deportation for two years for work or education.
The Dartmouth Coalition for Immigration Reform, Equality and DREAMers issued a letter to the College administration following Trump’s decision asking for certain protections. In the letter, CoFIRED included a list of demands, including the creation of “an action plan on what the College will do in case any of its students are persecuted under deportation orders while on campus” and a commitment that neither Safety and Security nor the College would “cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in localizing and detaining students.” The group also asked the College to provide mental health resources, funds to cover legal fees and full financial aid for undocumented students.
“September 5th felt a little bit like November 9th [election day] all over again,” CoFIRED co-director Jesus Franco ’20 said. “It was sad and it was frustrating, but it allowed me to see that I have privileges that other people don’t and pushed me to use those privileges to make sure that people on this campus are safe, which is what led me and the other CoFIRED members to create the list of demands that we released.”
According to Franco, he and other members of CoFIRED had previously discussed a plan to support students in the case of DACA’s repeal. Once the program was rescinded, the organization came together to write the letter and included its list of demands.
“Dartmouth prides itself on a diverse student body, so it is only right that it protects those students who help it achieve this goal ... Dartmouth has taken steps to achieve inclusivity and diversity, but it is time to make even greater strides,” the letter stated.
As CoFIRED awaits a response from Hanlon, Franco said he is hopeful that the demands would be met soon. He added that the organization was working to release as much information on the issue as possible while also trying to connect students with other resources on campus.
CoFIRED previously petitioned the administration on Nov. 16, 2016, shortly after Trump won the election. The petition received over 1,400 signatures from students, faculty and staff after one day of its release. Similar to CoFIRED’s Sept. 5 letter, the petition called on the Dartmouth administration to continue its efforts to “actively support undocumented students” by releasing a statement “declaring [Dartmouth] a sanctuary college.”
Hanlon responded to the petition in a campus-wide email on Nov. 18, 2016 that reaffirmed the College’s support for its undocumented students but did not declare the College a sanctuary campus. In the email, Hanlon wrote that Dartmouth “has for years been a strong supporter of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy.” He also signed a Nov. 21, 2016 letter entitled “Statement in Support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program and our Undocumented Immigrant Students,” which was cosigned by over 600 other university presidents.
Office of Visa and Immigration Services director Susan Ellison said that her office maintains a resource web page on DACA designed for students, staff and faculty. The web page includes several resources, such as a link to a network of pro bono and low cost legal services. She added that other offices such as Student Affairs, Dick’s House and Financial Aid also provide support for students affected by the decision.
“It’s really disappointing that this decision came down the way it did because ... some early communication coming out from the Trump administration seemed to give everyone the impression that he was going to leave the DACA program alone,” Ellison said. “Our office is coordinating to offer legal services to DACA students so that they can have access to qualified attorneys to discuss DACA or potentially look at other options for immigration relief.
Ellison said that in the past her office has offered students the opportunity to speak with attorneys to ask questions regarding DACA. She added that before DACA was enacted, OVIS organized sessions with senior administrators on campus with the goal of increasing awareness about the “challenges faced by undocumented students.”
Unlike the University of California system, which filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration on Sept. 8 for rescinding DACA, Ellison said that she was unaware of any College plans to file a similar lawsuit. However, she noted that the College has previously demonstrated its support for DACA through the filing of amicus briefs, most notably in March 2016, when the College filed a brief encouraging the expansion of the policy.
“There’s going to be efforts to work with our congressional delegation and others to find, to support a legislative decision to this,” Ellison said. “Understandably, there is a lot of anxiety and the hope is that things will happen pretty quickly on the legislative front.”
Trump’s decision to repeal DACA also comes amidst an increase in Customs and Border Protection agents conducting inspections in New Hampshire and Vermont. Ellison said that in June and August, CBP agents boarded Greyhound buses in White River Junction, Vermont and asked travelers to show evidence of their lawful status in the United States.
Additionally, a checkpoint was set up on Interstate 93 in Woodstock, N.H. during the last weekend in August that resulted in detainment of 25 undocumented immigrants, according to WMUR. According to the OVIS website, “CBP claims authority to operate these checks within 100 miles of the U.S. Canadian border.”
“I am actually going to be going to a meeting soon with CBP just to understand a little bit better about these activities and what’s happening,” Ellison said. “From what I understand, it’s a practice that they’ve done in the past, but not in quite a while. It doesn’t seem to be on a regular or scheduled basis.”
In regards to local law enforcement, Grafton County Sheriff Douglas Dutile said that his office does not have the jurisdiction to enforce federal law. He added that state police and county sheriffs do not have any statuary authority to enforce federal law.