Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals has been under attack since the Trump administration announced its intent to terminate the program, putting the status of approximately 800,000 DACA recipients around the nation at risk. The University of California has fought this decision and it is the subject of upcoming Supreme Court hearings, for which Harvard has submitted an amicus brief in support of the program.
We commend Harvard for representing and advocating for its students on the national scene and urge the administration to continue doing so. Our undocumented peers are facing a difficult time as their safety and the validity of their presence in this country is attacked while the whole nation watches. In light of the scale of the uncertainty they face, Harvard must defend and advocate for their well-being in all facets of college life. To the extent that the amicus brief furthers those ends, we support it.
That said, we are concerned that the brief also perpetuates a harmful narrative. Framing this issue as one limited to “remarkable” students is harmful for undocumented immigrants who are not students at institutions like Harvard. The immigration system is already a meritocratic one — where one’s humanity is measured by how well one does in school or what income one can contribute to the country — and Harvard needs to take a stance that advocates for all undocumented immigrants, not just those who measure up to Harvard’s standard for being “remarkable.” Exceptionalism has no place in a humane immigration system, and Harvard must be conscious of the narrative that this brief buys into.
To truly honor the humanity of undocumented students, Harvard’s advocacy cannot stop here. Harvard’s defense of DACA students must also be extended to undocumented students who do not benefit from DACA. The voices of undocumented students have been silenced in national conversations surrounding immigration reform because all of the focus has been on DACA. Due to cutoff dates for the law’s applicability, many students do not qualify for DACA and are thus not able to legally work or be safe from deportation. Advocating for just DACA is no longer enough. Harvard must unequivocally advocate for all undocumented students, with or without DACA. Period.
Meanwhile, we urge Harvard to take initiative and actively support immigration initiatives on campus, such as the TPS Coalition. TPS holders are especially under threat in light of the program’s possible termination, pending court cases, in 2020. Harvard not only has an obligation to its students, but also to its workers who dedicate both physical and emotional labor to the University.
Finally, we recognize and appreciate the efforts of the University of California system in taking legal action and bringing the case for undocumented students all the way to the Supreme Court. The Court now has the opportunity — indeed, the obligation — to recognize the humanity of undocumented immigrants all around the nation. Harvard, as a leading institution for higher learning, has a similar obligation to lead and continue to advocate for all its students, regardless of their immigration status, whose right to live, work, and belong in this country is under threat.
This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.