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Category: University News

Title: ‘We Are a Home to Dreamers’: Georgetown Presses for Program for Undocumented Students

Editor’s Note: Students’ initials were used in the story and in Georgetown’s formal comment to protect their privacy.

Warning of the “direct harm” the program’s end would cause students and alumni – including members of the Georgetown community – the amicus brief calls on the Fifth Circuit Court to reverse a Texas federal judge’s injunction of the program.  

In July, a federal judge blocked new applications to DACA and warned that a future order may suspend current recipients from filing renewals – putting the often-challenged program’s fate at risk. DACA provides more than 600,000 young adults with work authorization and the opportunity to apply for a social security number, in addition to temporary protection from deportation. The Biden-Harris Administration has appealed the ruling to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Georgetown Advocates for Dreamers

Georgetown signing the amicus brief builds on its most recent advocacy for DACA students in the run-up to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals hearing.

On Nov. 29, Georgetown submitted a formal comment to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reinforcing the university’s “strongest support” for DACA and a new proposed rule to preserve the program. DHS had drafted a proposed rule to codify and strengthen the DACA policy after the Texas federal judge’s ruling, and invited the public to weigh in for a 60-day period before the rule is finalized, which Georgetown did.

In its formal comment, Georgetown underscored the profound impact that DACA students, often referred to as “Dreamers,” make at the university and in our communities. Georgetown also urged DHS to expand the program’s access to a broader group of young people and to create a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, which would curtail the “significant anxiety they experience on a daily basis.”

“At Georgetown, we stand with undocumented students because in the midst of uncertainty, these young women and men demonstrate extraordinary skills and passion to make America a better place,” President John J. DeGioia wrote in the formal comment. “They are vital to our communities, schools, companies and families. They deserve the ability to contribute their talents without fear.”

The Impact of ‘Gifted and Motivated’ Dreamers at Georgetown

Both the amicus brief and formal comment highlight the substantial impact DACA students make on campuses across the U.S. and in their communities – and how the program helps enable this impact. 

The amicus, or legal document filed by individuals or groups with a strong interest in the subject matter, tells the story of Georgetown alumna CV, who came to the U.S. with her mother when she was six years old.  

CV graduated from high school with the highest marks and a track record of community engagement but could not afford to attend college. As a DACA recipient, CV took a gap year to save money and enrolled in community college in Florida before transferring to Georgetown. While on the Hilltop, CV spent summers working with high-achieving, low-income students, and received awards for her public service and academic achievement. She was one of 240 DACA recipients who volunteered in Teach for America, teaching underserved youth in a DC public school. She recently received the highest rating teachers can receive in the District.

JMG, also a graduate of the Walsh School of Foreign Service, shared in the amicus brief that the DACA program enabled him to work throughout his college years.

“Throughout my undergraduate education, DACA enabled me to hold steady on-campus jobs to cover costs associated with meals, books, travel and other necessities for college living,” he said. “DACA gave me a sense of safety I otherwise wouldn’t have had. This allowed me to thrive as a first-generation college student.”

After graduating from the Walsh School of Foreign Service, JMG helped low-wage migrant workers file for paid sick leave and supported their claims relating to workplace safety. He continues to advocate for the continued protections of the DACA program that have benefited him and many others. 

In Georgetown’s formal comment, the university details how DACA has supported Georgetown medical students such as M.V. who achieved her childhood dream of attending medical school and making healthcare more accessible. She now volunteers with the HOYA Clinic, a student-run clinic in Washington, DC that offers free medical service for underserved communities.

Supporting – and Expanding – DACA

The amicus brief and formal comment both warn of the consequences of ending DACA – and how the program’s uncertainty is jeopardizing students’ future now.

JF, a sophomore at Georgetown majoring in government, applied to DACA in December 2020 as soon as she was eligible. Through the program, she hoped to feel safer in the U.S. and travel to see her family. However, since the Texas federal judge’s ruling, her future has been “in limbo,” the amicus brief shares. With her application stalled, she’s unable to visit her family, obtain a work permit or apply to internships in DC. Her dream of law school is on hold due to her inability to work and save money. 

To address issues like this, Georgetown and other colleges and universities call for the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse the Texas federal judge’s ruling. 

Georgetown went a step further in its formal comment, urging the Department of Homeland Security to expand DACA in three ways. First, to expand access to a broader, younger group of Dreamers. Currently, DACA applicants are only eligible if they arrived in the United States by June 15, 2007. 

The university also requested that DHS include additional provisions in its rule for application fee waivers for individuals with high financial need, and for work permits to be automatically renewed while requests for extensions are pending. Lastly, Georgetown urged the government to create a pathway for citizenship, freeing Dreamers from the fear of deportation and allowing them to more fully immerse themselves in their academic and professional goals alongside their peers.

“With the power to adjust their status and access permanent legal protections, undocumented students will continue to embrace the legacy of the many immigrants who have come before them as they shape the next generation of leaders, innovators and public servants,” DeGioia wrote. “We have the capacity, and responsibility, as a nation to provide a permanent legislative solution to support our undocumented students.”

Georgetown’s Support for Dreamers

Georgetown’s amicus brief and formal comment are the latest advocacy efforts in the university’s long-term support for undocumented students. 

Guided by its foundational Jesuit value of cura personalis, or care of the person, Georgetown provides comprehensive campus resources and support for undocumented students, including arranging for legal counsel and clinics, offering undergraduate need-based scholarships, and supporting undocumented students at Georgetown through a full-time Associate Director for Undocumented Student Services. The university has also submitted amicus briefs to protect the DACA program and engaged in ongoing advocacy efforts

“Our support throughout the years is rooted in our deep commitment to educational access, and our conviction that each student should learn in a context where they can succeed, free from constraint or limitation,” DeGioia wrote in the formal comment.

“We are a proud home to Dreamers.”

President John J. DeGioia

Over the past decade, DeGioia has also testified in support of the DREAM Act before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security, sent letters to Congressional leaders and co-wrote the oped, “College presidents: Protect our students, pass the Dream Act.”