Student Government Condemns Department of Education’s Anti-DACA Policy

In a letter from the Student Government Assembly on Friday, April 24, the U.S. Department of Education was criticized by the organization for its new CARES Act guidelines, which bar undocumented immigrants from receiving emergency aid.

The Colloquium Room at the Kimmel Center is where the Student Government Assembly meets. SGA wrote a letter last Friday condemning the new Department of Education CARES policy. Secretary of Education Betsy Devos has decided to bar DACA recipients from receiving emergency aid during this time.(Photo by Jorene He)

The Student Government Assembly released a letter on Friday denouncing United States Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ decision to exclude DACA — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — recipients from receiving emergency aid during the pandemic.

Under the CARES Act, nearly $6 billion has been delegated to universities across the country in the form of COVID-19 emergency aid. Following new requirements instituted by the Department of Education on Tuesday, DACA recipients will be exempt from these funds. 

“The Executive Committee is disheartened and deeply disturbed to learn that the U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, chose to prohibit DACA recipients from receiving emergency grants from their colleges that come from the CARES ACT,” the letter stated. 

DACA is a federally protected U.S. immigration policy authorized by the Obama administration. It provides certain rights to undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children and prevents them from being deported.

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There are currently 700,000 people who are either active recipients or awaiting to receive DACA status in the U.S. Between its conception in 2012 to 2019, DACA status has been granted to approximately 909,700 people. According to the American Council on Education, 350,000 of these recipients are pursuing degrees of some sort.

Last October, in response to an impending Supreme Court case that could eradicate the policy, NYU — and more than a dozen other universities — signed an amicus curiae brief supporting DACA.

“Like their classmates, the DACA students on [college] campuses make enormous contributions to our educational institutions and our country,” the brief stated. “The colleges and universities that are signatories to this brief have an interest in each of their undocumented students’ welfare and ability to obtain a full and complete higher education.”

DACA has faced substantial pushback from the Trump administration. Additionally, much of Trump’s rhetoric surrounding undocumented immigrants has been regarded as violent and fear-mongering.

“Many of the people in DACA, no longer very young, are far from ‘angels,’” Trump said in a tweet from Nov. 12, 2019. “Some are very tough, hardened criminals.” 

The Supreme Court case, which heard arguments on Nov. 12, 2019 — the same day as Trump’s tweet — has yet to be decided, but many DACA recipients maintain that ending it during the pandemic would be disastrous. Many of these recipients work or study in the medical field and they cited the toll this decision would take on the U.S. healthcare system.

In its letter, the SGA promised to coordinate with NYU administration to find means of supporting students affected by the policy. 

“The Executive Committee is in talks with the administrators overseeing the NYU COVID-19 Emergency Relief Grant for ways to work around this setback,” the letter stated. “We will share updates once we have them.”

The NYU COVID-19 Emergency Relief fund states that it has given out approximately $4 million in funds to 8,500 students. The letter reiterated that students financially afflicted by the pandemic should be able to receive aid from the university in these circumstances. 

“Every college student in need should be able to look towards their institution for aid, especially during a global pandemic where millions are experiencing deaths in their family, loss of wages, and more unexpected challenges,” the letter reads.

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, April 27 e-print edition. Email Lisa Cochran at [email protected]

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