North Texas Daily

UNT faculty DACA petition gathers over 100 responses

UNT faculty DACA petition gathers over 100 responses

October 04
22:54 2017

Over 100 UNT faculty, alumni and students signed a petition urging the U.S. Congress to protect students in the Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The petition was released on Sept. 8 before being sent to House Rep. Michael Burgess and Sen. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn.

Political science professor Idean Salehyan wrote and distributed the petition.

“We are doing this in support of our students here at UNT but also around the country,” Salehyan said. “We want to make sure they can succeed in this country they call their home.”

DACA gives undocumented immigrants, who were brought to the U.S. as minors, eligibility for a two-year work permit and allows them to defer their deportation. On Sept. 5, President Donald Trump announced the repeal of the program.

If Congress does not approve a replacement program before the six-month phase-out period of the program, those undocumented immigrants will lose their ability to renew their DACA status.

The DACA administrative order, signed by former President Barack Obama, could have been rescinded by any president. Salehyan hopes Congress will come up with a permanent solution. He wants legislation, similar to the Dream Act of 2017, that will allow binding status for people brought to the U.S. as children.

Salehyan said it is important to act because many UNT students are benefiting from the program. There are over 400 DACA recipients enrolled at UNT, according to a UNT Faculty Senate Meeting on Sept. 13. He claimed there is “overwhelming support” on campus in favor of protecting students enrolled in DACA.

“They have dreams and aspirations of earning a college degree, getting jobs and starting families here in the United States,” Salehyan said. “They don’t know any other home but the United States.”

The petition was distributed via a Google document and was up for a week. Salehyan passed it out to anyone at UNT that he had contact information for. Those people were encouraged to share the petition with their colleagues.

It received 134 signatures.

“I don’t think we reached everybody, but we reached a good number of faculty,” Salehyan said.

Patrice Lyke, a senior lecturer in the English department and the undergraduate faculty advisor for English majors, signed the petition.

“I’ve taught DACA kids,” Lyke said. “They have been great students. They’ve contributed. I totally believe in the DACA program as a place for these students.”

Lyke said the criteria for the DACA program is difficult to meet and some people born in America would not be qualified. She added the students in the DACA program are met with a lot of scrutiny even though they passed the criteria necessary for the program.

Lyke thinks it will be difficult to change the minds of anyone who has a predisposed belief that immigrants are bad.

“I don’t think it will change minds, but at least it is a reminder that not everybody is falling in line with the current notion that these students, these people, have no business being in America,” Lyke said.

Alicia Eggert, assistant professor for studio arts and the program director for sculpture art, said some of her students have been affected by the issue. The petition gave her the opportunity to show those students that she is on their side.

“It’s helpful for our students to know where our faculty stands because often times we are not able to communicate that in the classroom to a certain degree,” Eggert said. “It’s important that I can have opportunities to express my personal opinions.”

Trump’s announcement led to a rally to save DACA at the Denton Square. One of the speakers, Clayton Cummings, advocated for the Bridge Act, which is a modified Dream Act. He encouraged attendees to call their representatives about it. Several others spoke at the rally where around 100 people attended.

UNT President Neal Smatresk also released a statement in support of DACA on Sept. 6. He said the repeal action will “blow the aspirations” of thousands of Dreamers including many at UNT.

“I want to make clear that I unequivocally support DACA, undocumented and other students who are overcoming significant barriers to educational attainment,” Smatresk stated in the release. “These students aspire to a better life and are doing what our society asks of them.”

Featured Image: Tuesday night residents from all over Denton gathered on the square to protest the removal of DACA. The repeal of DACA will affect 800,000 undocumented immigrants in America. Cameron Roe

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Devin Rardin

Devin Rardin

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