As ambiguity around the status of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program persists, nearly 800,000 young people in this country — at least 40 of whom attend USC, according to previous Daily Trojan reporting — are living in a state of uncertainty. And combined with the right wing’s dismal stance on public funding for education, the president’s threats against DACA mark a move to limit higher education access for people born into undocumented families. After all, to take away young people’s chances to live in America is to take away their chances to go to American colleges and enrich these schools with diversity.
USC has a significant population of international students and a body of undocumented students, whom the University declared support for in a memo released earlier this month. The University addresses their unique needs with a number of resources., like waivers for DACA renewal fees for students. The Gould School of Law has a clinic that provides legal counsel and help filling out and submitting documents. The University also made a pledge last year to protect undocumented students’ identities from unwarranted government searches and inquiries. USC may not be a sanctuary campus by name, but the University nonetheless protects its undocumented students.
That being said, the issue of educational equity for undocumented students is not one that can be reliably expunged on an individual, school-by-school basis. This inequality — in terms of the hoops undocumented students must jump through and the anxiety they face about their right to go to school — cannot be removed on a national level no matter how many resources USC provides.
The federal government must recognize how severely its policies and the rhetoric from its leaders have created institutionalized inequality in higher education, and ultimately make amends for this. Until this unfolds on a national level, equal education will continue to evade DREAMers at USC and across the country.
Education and equal opportunity are fundamental cornerstones of American democracy, which lawmakers are trying to use fine print and narrow, restrictive definitions of citizenship to deny thousands of young people from partaking in. The abilities of young undocumented people to pursue careers, support their families and pursue higher education may be up in the air throughout President Donald Trump’s presidency and Republicans’ hold on Congress.
For these young undocumented people, anxiety about their futures in this country and its schools can certainly take its toll. On top of the mental health struggles that may inherently go hand-in-hand with concerns about one’s status in this country, legal fees for DACA renewal and hours spent at courts and clinics are just additional barriers to higher education for DREAMERs. Without DACA, American education is inherently unequal.
While Trump seemed to soften his stance on DACA last week, making a tentative deal with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer that would grant DACA recipients some conditional protection, his rhetoric and reassurance to his base shows he is firm in opposing immigration reform. A compromise with Pelosi and Schumer today does not negate a future of uncertainty for young undocumented people on college campuses.