NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — Rutgers University's president strongly rebuked President Donald Trump's decision today to end an executive order protecting young undocumented immigrants from deportation.
Robert Barchi, Rutgers' president, sent a letter to the university community in defense of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, commonly known as DACA, and what it does for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country at a young age. DACA allows these people to live, study and work in the U.S. without worry of deportation, according to the government.
Barchi, a vocal supporter of DACA for some time, blasted the decision to kill the program in six months—barring Congressional action—as “wrong, unwise and inconsistent with American values,” according to the letter, which was signed by the university's four chancellors.
The move could place current DACA recipients at risk of deportation, and it closes the program to future applicants.
“The young people who have applied for DACA protection in the hope of a productive and successful life in this country came forward and provided their personal information to the federal government in good faith,” Barchi wrote. “Rescinding this protection, after they have voluntarily identified themselves, is diametrically opposed to any sense of fairness, let alone compassion for their situation.”
Rutgers erupted in protests last fall after Trump's election. Many participating students said they feared that the president would rescind DACA, opening undocumented students to threats from his administration.
What's more, some student activists urged Barchi to declare Rutgers a “sanctuary campus.” That term's often used to describe a place where immigrants, here legally or not, are welcome.
While Barchi declined to use that title, he did ensure Rutgers' commitment to the protection of undocumented immigrants who attend the school. In recent letters, Barchi reaffirmed that allegiance
Rutgers will continue to admit students regardless of their immigration status, conceal student records unless presented with a warrant or court order and offer “support and legal guidance” to students affected by the DACA move, Barchi said.
The New Jersey DREAM Act, meanwhile, which enables undocumented immigrants who have lived here for a certain amount of time to attend Rutgers at in-state costs, will remain in place, Barchi noted.
In a separate letter to Trump last week, Barchi petitioned the president to keep DACA in place.
“We have made a pledge to these young people, and we owe it to them to be true to our word,” Barchi wrote to Trump. “Far from threatening our society, the DACA program enriches us by enabling honest, hard-working young people to make a better life for themselves and make valuable contributions to our national workforce.”
Congress may choose to enshrine DACA, or parts of it, in law. It may also do nothing.
Barchi has advocated for the House of Representatives to pass an amended BRIDGE Act, which would also help undocumented immigrants who want to study here. He offered a path for students to voice their support earlier this year, according to Rutgers, resulting in more than 20,000 digital letters of support to Congress.
But Barchi's advocacy there has also irked some conservatives, who said the Rutgers president shouldn't have used his position to promote such an agenda.
About 800,000 people are currently enrolled in the DACA program, according to the government. Trump and his administration said they will not be immediately affected, according to reports.
One undocumented Rutgers student, Carimer Andujar, believed her DACA registration status came under fire earlier this year, due to her advocacy on behalf of undocumented students. She eventually received a renewal. But whether she and her peers might stay in the country remains unclear.