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DACA students shown support

Panel affirms that Dreamers are safe and secure at University, no matter what.

By Marcus Chamberland

May 1, 2018

Auraria Campus students hold signs in support for DACAAn 11-person panel that included University President Janine Davidson, Ph.D., on April 26 affirmed Metropolitan State University of Denver’s commitment to the safety, security and success of students who are protected by the federal policy known as DACA.

The policy, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, protects U.S. residents who are not citizens but arrived in the United States as children. But DACA has been on shifting ground over the past eight months. In September, the Trump administration announced its intention to rescind the Obama-era policy. Since then, three federal courts have ruled in favor of keeping DACA operational.

At the panel in SSB 420, Davidson emphasized the University’s relationship with students covered under DACA, known as Dreamers.

“If there’s one place where you have more support than anyplace else, it’s right here,” Davidson said. “We have the legal services to help you; we have counseling services to help you and professors who care about you. Stick with it, get your degree, and the doors will open up for you.”

Panel moderator Ramon del Castillo, chair of MSU Denver’s Chicano/a Studies department, asked Davidson whether staying in school makes sense for students dealing with the uncertainty of DACA’s future.

“I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to stay in school,” Davidson said. “I’ve heard your stories, and I know what you’re facing.

“You will get through this. … Legal status and legal issues and politics is not what defines you. What defines you is yourself, your values and your human capital. And if there’s one thing that can never be taken away from you, it’s your degree.”

She went on to note that statistics say people with college degrees have greater opportunities than those with just a high school diploma.

Panelist Myron Anderson, special assistant to the president, added, “This is an example of the changing of times. Making a decision to not continue education could end up having an adverse effect on your future. Focus on the long view.”

“Nothing has changed with respect to the way that we will continue to support our DACA students,” Davidson said.

Nicolas Stancil, the University’s deputy general counsel, noted that a federal judge in Washington, D.C., on April 24 ruled that the Trump administration’s effort to roll back DACA was made with no legal basis. The court said that not only should current DACA enrollees be protected, but the program should resume accepting new applications. Previously, federal courts in Brooklyn, N.Y., and San Francisco had ruled against the dismantling of the DACA program.

“You’re really lucky to live in Denver, Colorado,” Davidson said. “We’re supported by a mayor who has put a giant banner on top of his building that says, ‘We “heart’ immigrants.’

“Our board is also very supportive of DACA students.”

Auraria Police Chief Michael Phibbs was on the panel and took a question about whether his department would work with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“We are not empowered to, nor do we ever, get involved in immigration issues,” he said. “That’s not our thing. We don’t have access to people’s immigration status. We don’t do any of that.”

Likewise, the University itself does not collect information on students’ citizenship status.

Phibbs also addressed whether a law-enforcement agency such as the Auraria Police Department could be trusted by students who are undocumented.

“We are supportive of DACA students,” Phibbs said. “We want everybody on the campus to be safe every day. We don’t want people to be intimidated here.

“There’s no underhandedness going on.”

Davidson averred that discrimination would not be tolerated at MSU Denver, calling it “not acceptable.”

“Faculty members should know that this University is in full support of our DACA students. And if that’s something you have a problem with, then we’re going to have to have a discussion about how you fit into this community. They are legally in this country, they are legally at this University, and we support them.”

Panelist Thomas Hernandez, from the Office of Financial Aid, offered some security for DACA students who might be concerned about tuition rates.

“If somebody is receiving in-state tuition, they will not lose that in-state tuition, even if DACA should be rescinded,” he said.

Support services are available in the Dean of Students Office, Tivoli Room 311.

“Keep the faith,” Davidson said, “and know that you are incredibly supported here at MSU.”

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