The fate of Dreamers is under siege. They need us now, more than ever

The fate of Dreamers is under siege. They need us now, more than ever

Originally published by CNN

Isabel (not her real name), a Hunter College freshman born in Colombia, arrived in this country when she was four years old. She has lived ever since in a Queens apartment she shares with her parents and sister. To help fund her college education, Isabel works part-time as a receptionist in a veterinary hospital that is becoming increasingly short-staffed during the Covid-19 crisis. Isabel is helping in any way she can, often holding anxious pets while vets treat them. She is working longer hours than ever, juggling the demands of her job with the challenge of completing her academic year with a strong GPA. But with her mother now unemployed and her father's work schedule reduced — and his employment in jeopardy — Isabel's life is now more precarious than ever.

She lives in perpetual fear of deportation from this country, where she hopes to work one day in a profession that urgently needs new recruits: nursing. Worst of all, the federal government has excluded her from emergency funding for students under the CARES Act. That is because Isabel is a Dreamer whose status here could be protected in the long-stalled Development, Relief and Education for Minors Act — if only Congress passed it.
As President of Hunter College in New York City, I am concerned about students in our own school — and around the city and country — struggling to complete their studies while trying to support themselves and stay safe during this pandemic.
Dreamers face a particular burden as they await an imminent Supreme Court decision that will heavily impact their futures. The 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals executive order, signed by then-President Barack Obama, protected thousands of young Dreamers from deportation and enabled them to attend colleges and secure jobs in the US. But in 2017, Donald Trump's White House rescinded DACA. Since then, the future of this program and its nearly 800,000 beneficiaries have been under constant threat.
In the coming weeks, as Isabel and thousands of Dreamers continue to serve and protect their communities, the high court is expected to issue its ruling on whether DACA protection can be ripped away by a subsequent executive order. The court's ruling has the potential to upend the lives of Isabel and Dreamers like her. In the best of circumstances, a negative ruling may finally compel Congress to protect young immigrants from deportation by legislating their right to live and work freely in the only country many have ever known.
With the pandemic clouding our lives, we are more grateful than ever for the approximately 27,000 Dreamers who work in health care as doctors, nurses, pharmacists and paramedics. The Covid-19 crisis has highlighted their bravery, tenacity, and generosity as they care for those afflicted by the virus. We are also aware of the contributions of heroic Dreamers who are working tirelessly to keep us afloat by staffing grocery stores, pharmacies, and as in the case of Isabel, the veterinary hospitals that care for our beloved pets.
Along with many of my colleagues, I stand ready to continue helping Dreamers regardless of the Supreme Court's ruling — as we have done for years. Hunter established an office in our Division of Student Affairs to support undocumented students and facilitate scholarships for them through a partnership with TheDream.US organization. We created the Eva Kastan Grove Scholars Program that provides scholarships for students who are undocumented, immigrants or children of immigrants.
The College holds DACA Renewal Fairs to help students meet critical application deadlines and pay the $495 renewal fee. During these trying times, Hunter is also providing emergency funding, laptops, and access to our mobile food pantry to all students regardless of their status. All this practical support helps Dreamers advance their educational goals, shape their own futures, and contribute to our communities for years to come.
Now, more than ever, America has reason to be grateful to Dreamers. We cannot allow either a heartless interpretation of the CARES Act or a potentially negative Supreme Court ruling to derail their fates.
Let us keep the pressure on Congress to find a positive resolution for Dreamers who have faced challenges and uncertainty about their status since they arrived in this country as children. All leaders in higher education should stand unapologetically in support of these young men and women and help them in any way possible to complete their education.
We remain proud of every Dreamer who chose to pursue their American dream at Hunter College. All three branches of the federal government—the executive, Congress, and the courts—should likewise applaud their grit during the pandemic, and pave the way for their productive futures in our country, which is also their country.


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