UA President Johnsen calls on congressional delegation to support DACA fix

Hooding Ceremony at Wendy Williamson Saturday, May 4, 2013. (Photo by Erin Hooley/University of Alaska Anchorage Office of Advancement/Creative Commons)

Last week President Donald Trump announced the rollback of a federal program that granted protections for young illegal immigrants, sending the fate of hundreds of thousands of young people into question.

In Alaska, there are just 138 people under the protection of the Obama-era Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals but the potential deportation of any is a step too far for the head of the University of Alaska. In a letter to the congressional delegation on Monday, UA President Jim Johnsen asked the delegation to support “a fair and expeditious solution” to the situation created by Trump’s announcement.

University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen.

“The educational success of every University of Alaska student is one of my highest priorities, and while I understand there are a number of unresolved issues relative to the DACA program, I am very concerned about any of our students who may be impacted,” he wrote.

“As you can appreciate, recent events have introduced emotional turmoil and uncertainty into the lives of some students and if not quickly resolved, may prevent them from realizing their full academic and professional potential. This is not only damaging to the lives and ambitions of these students, but it is harmful to the long-term health of Alaska’s economy. While the number of DACA beneficiaries in Alaska may be small, failing to resolve this issue will have lasting repercussions to schools and institutes of higher education across the country.”

Last week, every member of the congressional delegation voiced support a legislative overhaul of the country’s immigration policy in the wake of the rollback. They also expressed sympathy to the plight of young people brought to the country by their parents, but only U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski explicitly said young illegal immigrants should be allowed to stay in the country.

There are 138 people who’ve been granted DACA protections in Alaska according to the latest report from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The University of Alaska doesn’t track how many students are DACA beneficiaries.

Despite initial pessimism about the potential for a legislative fix on DACA, it appears that Trump has reached a deal with congressional Democrats to enshrine the generally popular protections of DACA in federal law. Trump and many conservatives have framed their opposition to DACA as opposition to an unconstitutional overstep by Obama, generally avoiding lumping DACA beneficiaries into their overarching anti-immigration position.

It remains to be seen if congressional Republicans or Alaska’s congressional delegation will get on board with Trump and the Democrats.

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