Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story said the English faculty at Fresno State was the first group to release a statement in support of undocumented students and the DACA program. It has been updated to reflect previous statements made by the Academic Senate at Fresno State.
Members of the English department faculty at Fresno State released a statement last week condemning President Donald Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and asked the university to protect undocumented students.
On Sept. 5, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the cancellation of the program and said it would be phased out over six months. He said Congress would be tasked with coming up with an alternative to DACA.
The Academic Senate of Fresno State also approved a resolution at its Sept. 11 meeting in which it expressed its “clear and unequivocal” support for DACA students. The Senate had also previously shown its support for undocumented students in November when they urged Fresno State President Joseph I. Castro and the California State University Chancellor to resist attempts by immigration officials to conduct on-campus operations against undocumented students.
The statements by the Academic Senate are now being echoed by the English faculty. Their statement also includes strong support for students affected by the cancellation of the DACA program.
“We pledge our commitment to support and protect our students in any way possible,” the English department statement said. “In addition to this statement of solidarity, the department is researching all the ways we can be in support of you and uphold the university administration’s promises to defend students.”
The 21 English faculty members urged the university to ensure that the safety and security of DACA students is a priority amid possible actions by immigration officials.
The faculty requested Fresno State to avoid sharing private information of undocumented students as well as refuse to let Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials on university property. It also asked that resources be made available to inform and educate undocumented students on their rights and privileges.
The faculty also asked the university administration if it would support them in protecting undocumented students and if campus police officers are trained to confront ICE officials who may come to campus.
The faculty members said they support the university’s efforts in continuing to allow DACA students to continue their education at Fresno State.
The future of the program established by former President Barack Obama is largely unknown, but there are talks emerging from Washington, D.C.
On Sept. 13, Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer spoke with Trump over dinner to discuss a possible deal that would protect the current recipients of DACA.
According to the Tribune Washington Bureau, Pelosi and Schumer stated that a deal had been reached which included points such as relief from deportation for young undocumented immigrants with DACA.
The president, however, said no deal has been made on DACA yet. Federal DREAM Act legislation that includes the possibility of citizenship for those who qualify has been discussed but would require a vote in Congress, according to media reports.
Dr. Lisa Bryant, assistant professor in the department of political science, believes Congress’s task on immigration will be difficult. She said the time limit of six months to find agreement on a deal on immigration is too short.
“There will be tremendous pressure from the president’s base to stand firm on immigration issues, so it’s difficult to predict what his position on this issue will be in six months,” Bryant said.
As for the construction of the wall at the U.S.-Mexico border, Bryant said that Trump may have the chance to enhance some border security, but funding the entire wall will be a challenge.
“Congress has been directed to find a way to make the U.S. taxpayers pay for the wall,” Bryant said. “That is going to be a tough sell to the American public because, according to polls, only about 33 percent of Americans support building the wall.”
Bryant also noted the looming deadline for eligible DACA recipients to renew their work permits. That deadline is Oct. 5. Bryant said she isn’t sure if many of those eligible for a DACA renewal will do so.
“I can imagine that some current DACA students might be hesitant to provide updated information to officials at this time given the uncertainty of the future of the program,” she said.
Brian Chavez, a sophomore mechanical engineering major who is in T.O.R.T.I.L.L.A., Teatro Of Raza Towards Involvement in Local Latino Awareness, said he is eager for Congress to make a deal soon.
He said it is important for Congress to make the DACA program permanent so that students don’t have fear or uncertainty about their future.
“It has to become a law,” Chavez said. “I feel like he [Trump] put it out there, and he left it up to Congress. If you want this to become a law, if you want to help out students, make it a law.”
Staff Writer Hayley Salazar contributed to this story.