Yale and other schools file amicus brief in support of maintaining DACA

The tile page from an amicus brief listing plaintiffs and defendets in a case concerning DACA rights for immigrant children.

Yale has joined 18 other universities and colleges in filing an amicus (friend of the court) brief in a case about the legality of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program. DACA protects against near-term deportation for covered students, allowing them to work lawfully and travel abroad.

The amicus brief was filed in support of efforts to defend DACA against a legal challenge to the program brought by Texas and six other states.

In their brief, Yale and the other schools state that discontinuing DACA “would deter young people from pursuing higher education and preclude the remarkable students enrolled at amici [schools filing the brief] institutions from deriving the full benefit of time on our campuses.” The schools further state that discontinuing DACA would “threaten amici’s ability to attract and educate the most talented individuals and so undermines their educational missions.”

Noting that DACA students are “some of the most gifted and motivated young people in the world,” the schools point in the brief to the accomplishments of numerous individual undocumented students at their schools. “Like their classmates, these young people were valedictorians, student government leaders, varsity athletes, inventors, academic award winners, accomplished artists, and role models for younger children in their communities,” states the brief.

An undocumented student at Yale quoted in the brief describes the hardship of many peers: “The challenges … start in high school … when many undocumented students, seeing no way out of their limbo status, lose motivation. Others pick up jobs on the side to financially help their families, slowly drifting away from their classwork. Even for those who remain dedicated to their classes, studies show a lack of information regarding university options and an inability to obtain financial aid obstructs the path to higher education.”

Despite the adversity they face, “DACA students are American in everything except immigration status,” the schools state in their brief. “They have come of age in this country, excelling in our elementary, middle, and high schools, praying in our houses of worship, playing on our little league teams, and celebrating our national holidays.”

The brief notes that while DACA does not provide a path to citizenship for undocumented students, it does “offer them a measure of security and access to opportunities for educational and professional development,” including off-campus internships, on-campus research with university faculty, field work outside of the United States, and study abroad.

The end of DACA, the schools state, would mean that many of their students would face “the terrifying prospect of having to return to life in which they have little chance of making the best use of their hard-earned skills and knowledge, or, worse still, being removed altogether and forced to make their way in a country that is wholly foreign to them.

An injunction ending DACA also would send a clear message to the more than one million undocumented children in the United States that the trails amici’s students and alumni have blazed lead nowhere and are not worth following,” the schools say in the brief. “ … Rather than serving our country’s interest, enjoining DACA will deprive our society of the many contributions these young people are prepared and eager to make.”

Furthermore, an end to DACA “would force future scholars, innovators, and leaders to choose between withdrawing to the margins of our society and national economy or returning to countries they have never called home,” the brief states. “Whatever they choose, their gifts and education will be lost to this nation.”

The other schools that joined in the amicus brief are Brown University, California Institute of Technology, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Duke University, Emory University, Georgetown University, George Washington University, Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northwestern University, Princeton University, Stanford University, University of Chicago, the University of Pennsylvania, Vanderbilt University, and Washington University in St. Louis.

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