A month before the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments about President Trump ending an Obama-era executive order to protect young immigrants, three Utah higher education higher education institutions have signed on to an amicus brief in support of the program.
The University of Utah, Weber State University and Westminster College joined more than 160 other colleges and universities nationwide that signed the friend-of-the-court brief calling for the Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, to be restored. The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on November 12.
There are an estimated 9,000 DACA recipients living in Utah out of nearly 700,000 nationwide, according to an analysis by the Washington-based Center for American Progress, a public policy research and advocacy organization. There were at least 1,162 undocumented students at Utah’s eight public colleges and universities during the 2017-18 school year, the most recent data from the Utah System of Higher Education shows.
Officials from other Utah institutions which weren’t part of the brief said they were unaware of the movement or couldn’t participate due to technical difficulties.
Former President Barack Obama created the DACA program in 2012 through an executive order to shield certain young immigrants from deportation.
President Donald Trump said Wednesday in a tweet that if the Supreme Court upholds DACA, it would give the president extraordinary powers.
President Obama said that he did not have the right to sign DACA, that it will never hold up in court. He signed it anyway! If the Supreme Court upholds DACA, it gives the President extraordinary powers, far greater than ever thought. If they do what is right and do not let......
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 9, 2019
The 165 institutions said in the brief that they have seen firsthand the benefits of DACA for their students and their campus alike.
“Amici Institutions of Higher Education share the Respondents’ interest in a diverse student body, and this brief demonstrates that Petitioners’ arbitrary and capricious actions will impact institutions of all sizes throughout the nation,” the group said in the brief.
The movement was coordinated in part by the President’s Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, a coalition of college and university leaders.
Westminster College President Bethami Dobkin said signing on to the brief reflects the school’s commitment to educating students in a climate of security, rather than fear or ambiguity.
“Any time you are unsure of your future in a way as dramatic as the recission of DACA, it can only compromise your ability to learn and our ability to benefit from all the potential you have to bring,” she said.
Alonso Reyna Rivarola, the director of the University of Utah’s Dream Center and a DACA recipient himself, helped coordinate the institution’s involvement.
“I'm grateful we did because it shows our commitment to our students at the University of Utah,” he said.
KUER reached out to other Utah institutions not part of the group to learn why they did not participate.
Dixie State University President Richard William tried to join the group, but couldn’t due to technical glitches, spokesman Jordan Sharp said.
Snow College spokeswoman Marci Larsen said the school hadn’t heard about the brief until Wednesday.
Utah State University spokesman Tim Vitale said he was unable to immediately answer why the school wasn’t part of the brief. However, President Noelle Cockett is part of the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigrationsteering committee.
These three schools referenced a 2017 letter where all eight Utah public colleges and universities and the state’s commissioner of higher education pledged their support for DACA.
Brigham Young University spokeswoman Carri Jenkins said the private institution is routinely approached to participate in amicus briefs on a range of issues. She said BYU’s practice has been to limit its participation to those that directly affect the school’s mission.
Southern Utah University and Salt Lake Community College did not respond to requests for comment. SUU President Scott Wyatt is also a member of the alliance.