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Letter regarding update on MIT's support of its DACA students

The following email was sent yesterday to the MIT community by Chancellor Cynthia Barnhart.

To the members of the MIT community:

I had very much hoped that the next time I wrote to you about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, it would be to celebrate the passage of a permanent legislative solution that MIT and other universities have repeatedly called for since the White House decided to end the program.

Congress’ inaction means that fear and uncertainty are a part of the daily life for hundreds of thousands of young people protected by DACA who were brought to this country before they were 16. They are now deeply immersed in our nation’s education system, members of our workforce and, through their studies and hard work, actively advancing our national interests. We are very fortunate that some of those brilliant students – also known as Dreamers – call MIT their home.

I know that in this moment MIT's Dreamers are on the minds of many in our community. You may be wondering about the status of recent legislative activity and litigation; what we are doing to support our students; or you how you can help. That is why I write today – to provide you with an update.

I will start by sharing what Vice President and General Counsel Mark DiVincenzo and I have told MIT’s DACA students as part of our regular check-ins with them:

Legislative Activity and Litigation

The news on the Congressional front is not good. Neither the Senate nor the House of Representatives appears to be able to agree on a bill that can be supported by the full Congress or the President. MIT’s DC Office will continue to closely monitor this situation and assist us in advocating for passage of legislation that protects DACA students.

There have, however, been some positive developments: in two separate lawsuits – one in California and one in New York – the federal courts have blocked, at least temporarily, the federal government from terminating the DACA program, allowing those who are already DACA-protected to maintain their protection and ordering the Department of Homeland Security to accept applications from DACA recipients for two year renewals. As we have previously reported, MIT joined eighteen peer institutions in submitting amicus – or “friend of the court” – briefs that urged the courts to rule the way they did.

The federal government has appealed the two court decisions. And, earlier this week, the US Supreme Court declined to consider the government’s request for a direct appeal. This means that protections for individuals with DACA status will remain in place while legal appeal proceedings play out in the courts, a process that is likely to take at least several more months.

In light of these rulings, individuals who have DACA status are again permitted to file for renewals, so we have been strongly advising our DACA students whose status is expiring to submit their renewal applications as soon as possible.

Federal Immigration and Law Enforcement

We have been clear that the Institute will do everything legally possible to protect DACA students regardless of the program’s ultimate fate. As I have previously noted in messages to the community, MIT Police have a longstanding practice of not inquiring about individuals’ immigration status, and our officers are not responsible for enforcing federal immigration law.

Additionally, the Institute does not voluntarily share information about individuals’ immigration status with federal or state agencies, and the Division of Student Life is discussing with residential life staff how to refer requests from immigration or other law enforcement officials to MIT’s Office of the General Counsel in the unlikely event these officials come to campus.

Support for MIT’s Dreamers

For several years now, MIT has directly connected undocumented students to a Student Support Services (S3) dean. Gerardo Garcia-Rios, associate dean and co-director of S3, offers one-on-one and group personal support to this close-knit community of students, and works to ensure that they can have the same student life and learning experience as documented students.

More recently, we have taken two key steps to give MIT’s Dreamers the help they need now:

  • MIT has retained an outside immigration lawyer to be available to DACA students so that they can seek legal advice; and
  • We have committed to them that, if they lose their work authorizations because of the end of the DACA program, MIT will adjust their financial aid to meet their needs.

Moving Forward

Because we are one MIT, there are many members of our community who are wondering how they can assist our DACA students. If you want to help, one of the best ways to show your individual support is to lend your voice to the growing chorus of Americans who are calling on our elected officials – both in Congress and the White House – to pass immigration legislation that protects Dreamers.

MIT will continue to work with national associations and leverage other critical partnerships to convey to Congress that ending DACA would harm not only the individuals protected by the program but all of higher education if we can no longer welcome talented young Dreamers to our communities.

You can learn more about the different immigration proposals that have been put forward and, if you are inclined to do so, you can call your elected officials to voice your support for DACA.

MIT’s Dreamers have secured their place in America’s education system and workforce by applying their intellectual gifts, putting in the long hours, doing the hard work, and never giving up on big dreams. Like all MIT students, we want them to be able to take full advantage of the opportunities they’ve earned, and the chance to see where those opportunities take them.


Cynthia Barnhart

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