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Universities Press Trump to Backtrack on Deportations | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Protestors march against Donald Trump advisers including Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist and senior counselor, at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts on November 30, 2016.
Ryan McBride / AFP

More than 350 U.S. universities are urging President-elect Donald Trump to change his mind and keep a program that lets hundreds of thousands of undocumented young people study and avoid deportation.

At the initiative of Pomona College president David Oxtoby, the universities, including Columbia, Harvard, Yale, UCLA, UC Berkeley and Stanford, signed a statement last week pledging to do what they can to protect their undocumented students, most of whom are “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” (DACA) beneficiaries.

“To our country’s leaders we say that DACA should be upheld, continued, and expanded. We are prepared to meet with you to present our case,” the letter reads.

“This is both a moral imperative and a national necessity. America needs talent — and these students, who have been raised and educated in the United States, are already part of our national community.”

Nicknamed “Dreamers,” they are the estimated 1.2 million young people who were brought to the United States illegally as children, grew up without U.S. residency papers, finished high school and often speak better English than the language of their parents.

Some 740,000 of them have joined the DACA, a program approved in 2012 by President Barack Obama that protects them from deportation.

It has brought some normalcy to their lives, but it is a program that Trump promised during the presidential campaign to eliminate “immediately” if he won.

While DACA does not grant the dreamers federal funds or the coveted “Green Card” — permanent residence and a work permit — it lets them study at university, get a job and have a driver’s license if they were in the country before the age of 16 and if they were under 31 in 2012.

It is renewable every two years.

The universities’ statement was released after thousands of university students protested nationwide after Trump’s win, calling for their campuses to become “sanctuaries” where undocumented students are safe.

During the campaign, Trump cast DACA as an “illegal executive amnesty” by Obama.

But he never made clear whether ending it meant accepting no new applicants, or simply abolishing the whole program.