Washington, DC – In a op-ed published at the Chronicle for Higher Education, Trinity Washington University president Patricia McGuire reminds us why resolving DREAMers’ crisis remains an important priority for Congress and highlights ways that institutions of higher education can help fill the void of federal inaction. Trinity Washington is one of more than 75 colleges and universities that partner with TheDream.US.
“For the first time ever, a Dreamer is a Rhodes Scholar. Jin Kyu Park of Harvard is among the 32 American Rhodes Scholars named in early November. His story is the latest evidence of the extraordinary achievements of Dreamers in American higher education. According to TheDream.US, the largest scholarship organization supporting young undocumented immigrants who came into the United States as infants and children, Dreamers nationwide have high collegiate success rates along with ambitious academic and professional goals.
My institution, Trinity Washington University, is one of more than 75 collegiate partners working with TheDream.US. Our experience exemplifies the national success of Dreamers in college. Dreamers make up about 10 percent of our full-time undergraduates. They are student leaders, team captains, volunteers for a wide range of community causes. For the first cohort of Trinity Dreamers, which entered in 2014, 90 percent finished in four years, with others on track to complete in one or two additional semesters — a success rate well above the rest of our student body. Seventy percent of the first cohort graduated with Latin honors. More than half of our Phi Beta Kappa honorees this year are Dreamers.
With so much talent in this remarkable population of young people, why is the United States government hellbent on sending them away, deporting them to countries they have never known? DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, created in 2012 by the Obama administration, provided some modest legal protection for Dreamers, but the Trump administration rescinded DACA in 2017. Notorious for rhetoric that vilifies immigrants and refugees, President Trump displays a cruelty in stripping DACA protection from Dreamers that makes no sense morally, economically, or educationally.
Universities have taken the lead in advocacy and litigation for Dreamers, with hundreds of university presidents collaborating through organizations such as the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration. However, political gridlock stymies our efforts to secure a permanent legislative solution.
… As the lawyers make their arguments about immigration policy precedents and presidential power, our Dreamers must live each day stressed about the uncertainty in their lives, worried about losing the work permits and drivers’ licenses that are essential to support their families, and fearful that ICE will show up at their doors anyway despite all of our promises to protect them.
I, too, worry about the limits of our ability to protect and support our Dreamers — the struggle seems endless, but the money is finite; even with terrific benefactors providing scholarships, there’s never enough to cover all the need. As they graduate, Dreamers find there is no money for graduate school, and licensure rules block their access to professions in some states. But even as I worry about what the future holds, I am reminded of something a Dreamer said in her college application. Recalling the harrowing experience of her family’s migration to the United States, she wrote, “By enduring this journey I learned that the worst thing I could have done was give up.”
We cannot give up on the chance for a much better future for our Dreamers. By enrolling these remarkable students, we embrace the challenge to accompany them on this journey as far as we must go. While we know that political solutions are elusive, we must remain loud and urgent in our advocacy for them. And with each scholarship, each advising session, each honor, each moment of listening and support in times of stress, each time we let Dreamers know they are welcome here, we bend the arc of immigration history a little bit closer to achieving justice.”
According to Gaby Pacheco, Director of Advocacy, Development and Communications for TheDream.US, “We applaud President McGuire and all other educators who see the value in opening the doors of higher education for all students, including undocumented youth. Our Scholars are making an impact on the institutions they are attending, enriching classrooms and campuses with their diversity of opinions and experiences and a profound drive to learn, succeed, and give back.”
TheDream.US is the nation’s largest college access and success program for immigrant youth, having provided more than 4,000 scholarships to students with DACA and TPS at more than 75 partner colleges in 15 states and Washington, DC, including Trinity Washington University. The organization believes that all young people, regardless of where they were born, should have the opportunity to fulfill their potential, gain an education, and fully participate in the country that they call home.
- Read a copy of TheDream.US report In Their Own Words, summarizing the responses and implications from a national survey of 1,400 TheDream.US Scholars. Available in full online here
- Read through TheDream.US Scholar story-bank, featuring powerful personal reflections from Scholars about their lives, journeys, and future goals here