SIU suggests DACA students return to US before Trump takes office



President-elect Donald Trump pumps his fist, with running mate Mike Pence standing by, following a speech to his supporters after winning the election at the Election Night Party at the Hilton Midtown Hotel in New York City on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016. (J. Conrad Williams Jr./Newsday/TNS)

By Olivia Spiers

University administrators and legal experts are advising undocumented immigrant students to be within U.S. borders before President-elect Donald Trump takes office in January.

SIU administrators are organizing meetings with some 20 students that are protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, informing them of the potential implications. The Center for International Education also organized an ad hoc committee meeting to find solutions for international students, said Tina Sickinger, the center’s immigration specialist.

“The main goal is to remain proactive to the many changes that we are about to see in the country,” Sickinger said.


The measure echoes similar warnings issued by university officials nationwide after the election of Trump, who has said he plans to reverse the program.

The DACA program was launched in 2012 following an executive order issued by President Barack Obama to protect students who were brought into the country before reaching age 16. Residents of the U.S. under the age of 31 at the time of its enactment were offered the opportunity to remain within the country with the option of renewal after two years.

Nationwide, there are more than 1,932,000 students eligible for DACA, and 43 percent of those student were accepted into the program as of June. Illinois houses 5 percent of the national DACA population.

Cindy Buys, an SIU law professor who specializes in immigration, said DACA does not offer permanent citizenship to students, and undocumented students could be deported under any president.

“If the rules change while [DACA students] are out of the country, it is less likely they will be let back in,” Buys said.

(Reagan Gavin | @RGavin_DE)
(Reagan Gavin | @RGavin_DE)

In response to Trump’s comments, committees a part of the university’s student governments have called on administrators to declare SIU a sanctuary campus. In a Nov. 19 letter, the two committees reached out to Carbondale’s political officials, urging them to make the city a sanctuary for DACA students, said Barbara Bickel, director of the university’s women, gender and sexuality studies program.

The letter — penned by the Graduate and Professional Student Council’s diversity and inclusivity policy committee and the Undergraduate Student Government’s diversity and equity affairs committee  —  also requests a separate office be established to “better assist DACA students in the changed social climate,” Bickel said. The committees also call for the same amenities to be offered to undocumented students that citizens are allowed, such as in-state tuition.


“Taking a broad brush legal approach to all, I believe, is non-humanitarian and ultimately unethical,” Bickel said of Trump’s comments about abolishing the program.

Bickel said supporting the students is “crucial in this time of financial and political uncertainty in our state as well as in our country.”

Elizabeth Lewin, SIU’s assistant chancellor for diversity, said she hopes the Center for International Education will reach out to her in the near future in order to brainstorm effective resolutions for DACA students.

“We are in need of global unity, which I hope will be shown in the collaboration of SIU immigration departments in the near future,” Lewin said. 

Staff writer Olivia Spiers can be reached at [email protected], 618-536-3325 or on Twitter @_spierso.

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