Maryland universities vow to defend 'dreamers' on campus

Since President Donald Trump announced an end to protections for immigrants brought to the United States as children on Tuesday, several Maryland universities have begun pushing back and pledging to explore ways to protect “dreamers” on their campuses.

That includes not only advocacy for a legal fix in Washington, but also legal, financial and mental health resources for students so they may continue their educations.

“We stand firm in our support for undocumented students’ access to public education, particularly our own ‘dreamers,’ students of diverse backgrounds earning degrees at UMBC through provisions of the Maryland Dream Act,” wrote Freeman Hrabowski, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and other school officials in a letter to students and faculty.

The Maryland Dream Act is a 2012 law that offers in-state public tuition rates to certain undocumented immigrants. It was passed after former President Barack Obama created the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, with a memo the same year.

Trump and conservative Republicans called Obama’s action constitutional overreach, and Trump gave Congress six months to pass legislation to settle the issue.

DACA gives a reprieve from deportation to people who entered the country as children before 2007. They had to work or go to school, have graduated or been honorably discharged fro the military, as well as have a mostly clean criminal record.

There are more than 9,000 Marylanders who qualified for DACA, though it’s not clear how many attend universities in the state.

Officials at Johns Hopkins University say they will support efforts that allow students who have grown up in this country to enroll in college and “contribute to the nation.”

In a letter to students and faculty, Ronald J. Daniels, Hopkins president, called this “not only compelling in moral terms, but reflects a necessary and pragmatic acknowledgment of the untenable situation of the dreamers and the need to provide a clear path that will allow them to lead lives of dignity and purpose in this country.”

In addition to aid to students, Daniels pledged to protect the privacy of students, faculty and staff by refusing to provide information about the immigration status of those on campus unless required by law. He also said safety and security officers would not request information on citizenship or enforce federal immigration laws without a court order.

Wallace D. Loh, president of the University of Maryland, College Park, where there are about 100 DACA students, also has called the decision to end the program “antithetical to the core values” of higher education and said he would “continue to identify all avenues available for offering support.”

Gordon F. May, president and CEO of Baltimore City Community College, said the school would follow guidance from the University of Maryland system in understanding any changes to DACA, but he pledged to support students, faculty and staff.

“BCCC is proud to be an open-access institution,” he said. “Our mission is to serve and educate all members of our community. It is our commitment to inclusiveness that makes BCCC a haven for all our students.”

Many of the universities, including Maryland Institute College of Art, joined a large group of universities and colleges last year in expressing support for DACA.

“MICA’s position remains unchanged,” said Samuel Hoi, MICA’s president. “As a campus community, we stand firmly behind the undocumented and DACA students among us. We will support those who are impacted by this decision and link them to appropriate resources wherever possible.”

Baltimore Sun reporters Lorraine Mirabella and Sarah Gantz contributed to this article.

meredith.cohn@baltsun.com

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