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Supporting Our Families

By Lisette Alyne Candia Diaz, Edgar Garcia, Luis Perez, and Paulo J. Pinto

We write on behalf of Harvard College Act on a Dream, an organization created in 2008 with the sole mission of passing the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, a piece of legislation that would provide a pathway to citizenship to qualifying youth. Since then, we have educated our peers on the complexity of our broken immigration system, we have written to our members of Congress, and we have lobbied for immigration reform in Washington, D.C. However, we find that there remains a crucial piece missing in our fight for immigration reform—the DREAMers of Harvard University are not receiving sufficient support from the university itself. Prior to the announcement of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, undocumented Harvard graduates returned home with their degrees only to be employed by the underground economy. Few found no other option but to move to their native countries, places they had only seen as children.

Before DACA, DREAMers were continually excluded from Harvard experiences such as studying abroad or completing a fellowship. With the announcement of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, qualifying DREAMers can now live without fear of deportation for a period of two years and have the opportunity to seek temporary employment. Nonetheless, DACA does not provide a pathway to citizenship and thus leaves them and their communities at the mercy of politics. Furthermore, while DACA protects DREAMers from deportation, it does not protect their parents.

With the announcement of Deferred Action for Parental Accountability, some protection can now be extended to our communities. However, this protection is currently imperiled by one of the most conservative courts in our nation. On February 17., a federal court in Texas issued a preliminary injunction against Obama’s executive action.

This gives Harvard the opportunity to lead.

If President Drew Faust publically addresses the issue of DAPA and announces Harvard University’s support of such a policy, the immigration dialogue could shift. We do not claim that Harvard University alone can guarantee fair immigration reform. However, as one of the world’s most progressive institutions, it can certainly do its part in guiding America to this goal.

We called on our peers to aid us in our goals, and they quickly demonstrated their support via the UC Referendum in 2013 in which 80% of voting students voted in favor of Harvard University openly supporting comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship. Comprehensive immigration reform goes even further than DAPA or DACA, fixing our broken system and granting a pathway to citizenship to millions of undocumented individuals.

Now, in this time of pivotal change, President Faust should once again take the lead.  In 2009, she publicly voiced her support for the DREAM Act, shifting the dialogue in favor of DREAMers. She said, “I believe it is in our best interest to educate all students to their full potential—it vastly improves their lives and grows our communities and economy.”  Again, in 2015, President Faust voiced her support for DREAMers by writing to Massachusetts' Congressional delegation, discouraging the defunding of DACA, and succeeding in making sure the program that has benefitted so many of us remains funded.

While we thank President Faust for her previous efforts, the road to immigration reform is not over, and the next step is now in front of us. Drew Faust should stand with us and our families. She should stand with the computer science major whose father was deported last semester. She should stand with the student whose hometown has decided to build an immigrant detention center to house his family members. She should stand with the student who was forced to take time off school in order to help support a struggling family. President Faust should stand with our families. Harvard should call upon Congress to work together with President Obama to protect the 12 million undocumented individuals who call this country home. DAPA is simply the next logical step; President Faust should support us by publicly endorsing DAPA and thereby setting a precedent for other schools and institutions.

Luis Perez ’16 is a computer science concentrator in Leverett House, Lisette Alyne Candia Diaz ’16 is a social studies concentrator in Pforzheimer House, Paulo J. Pinto ’18 lives in Hollis Hall, and Edgar Garcia ’18 lives in Matthews Hall. All write on behalf of Harvard College Act on a Dream.

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