Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Education

Florida universities prepare for future without DACA

University of Florida president Kent Fuchs viewed Tuesday's announcement as a threat to educating well-qualified students.

The university has already seen a drop in enrollment from international students, he said, and this decision could discourage undocumented students from applying.

"I really believe that we are at risk in the U.S. of having our universities being portrayed, incorrectly, as not being a place for anyone except U.S. citizens," he said.

In an emailed statement to students, he reaffirmed the university's commitment to supporting undocumented students. Along with other Florida university presidents, Fuchs previously has signed a letter urging Congress to pass legislation to protect students who qualify for DACA, students he believes deserve to stay in the United States.

Heide Castañeda, an associate professor at the University of South Florida, is working with administrators and staff to promote conversations about undocumented students.

She said students on campus were devastated and sad, but not surprised. Tuesday's announcement was one staffers had been preparing for by reaching out to students about campus resources available, like mental health and legal services.

"At USF, we take very seriously the charge that they are part of our community," she said.

DACA applicants handed the federal government information on where they live, work, and go to school. Once the final date for renewal, Oct. 5, passes, and the two-year work permits expire, Castañeda said the 800,000 applicants will be vulnerable.

"Not only are they technically deportable when that permit runs out … but they also know that the federal government has all that information on them," she said.

Even with HB 851, which granted out-of-state tuition waivers for undocumented students who attended high school in Florida in 2014, without DACA, Castañeda said, they won't be able to work.

"The fear they have of being deportable and the lack of a future without a work permit, those are the kinds of things we can't address without intervention at the federal level," she said.

After DACA's end, applicants will be "fish in a barrel," said St. Petersburg immigration lawyer Arturo Rios Jr.

He viewed Tuesday's announcement as a tragedy.

As an adjunct professor at USF, he said the decision will change the way he teaches his course on immigration litigation, as well as his own practice, for more intense representation.

"I'm the last person to raise danger or worry, but this is one I'm worried about," he said.

But he doesn't believe Congress will be able to pass legislation in six months.

"I'm sure any kind of immigration reform, just knowing the process, it's going be haggling back in forth."

Contact Melissa Gomez at [email protected] Follow @MelissaGomez004.

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