This story has been updated to reflect the correct number of DACA students at Trevecca. There are around 130 DACA students. An earlier version of this story was incorrect. We regret the error.
By Brooklyn Dance and Blake Stewart
Students and faculty responded in a variety of ways to President Trump’s decision on Tuesday to end the DACA program.
“It took me the day to process everything that had happened today,” said Arturo Prieto, junior international business major.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday announced the White House would end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in six months. The program was created by President Barack Obama in 2012 as a way to allow young people brought to the United States as children without documentation to apply for work permits, get drivers licenses and go to college.
More than 130 students at Trevecca and around 8,300 Tennesseans have DACA status.
Around 70 Trevecca faculty, staff and students participated on Tuesday in a march from Centennial Park to the offices of Tennessee senators. Organized by JUMP and Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, marchers trekked to Senators Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander’s offices, shouting chants and carrying posters in response to the announcement from the White House.
“If I could summarize DACA with one word, it would be ‘opportunity,’ ” said Prieto. “It has allowed myself and 800,000 dreamers to get a job with a work permit, a driver’s license and the opportunity to pursue a college education while receiving no government aid.”
Ivan Palomares, junior exercise science major, is also a DACA recipient. Palomares moved to the United States when he was seven and attended the University of Tennessee Knoxville before transferring to Trevecca, because it was a much more affordable option.
“I’ve gotten this far, it’s just disappointing that it could end now when I only have two years left to go.” Palomares said. “I’ve lived here for 13 years. I don’t feel any different from anybody on campus at all. In my mind, I’m just as American as I am Mexican. I don’t know any other place than the United States.”
Palomares is thankful for the support of the university and the close-knit community of Trevecca DACA students.
“I feel like we are really united, there’s a really good group of us. It’s warming to know I have support,” Palomares said.
Trevecca students who aren’t DACA students also marched. They said their faith compelled them to take a stand for their friends and classmates.
“If we are a Christian university and we claim to be a part of the body of Christ, it’s important for us to be there for any member associated with us, especially when they’re personally attacked. I chose to go to show solidarity for my fellow colleagues, friends and Tennesseans,” said Charles Lane, junior community development major. “If people are called to pull themselves up by the bootstraps, then education is the vehicle for that delivery.”
Elizabeth Nunley, assistant professor of social work, said she was marching to demonstrate to her students that she supports them.
“My intention of going to the march is to stand in solidarity with our DACA students and connect faculty and students to show their support,” she said. “By showing up we are saying that this is an important issue.”
Not all students were disappointed by Trump’s decision, which gives congress six months to address the issue via legislation rather than executive order.
“The argument for DACA is totally emotion driven and we cannot disregard the law in favor of emotion,” said Tony Apolczer, junior phsychology major. “It is unfortunate that young people have been put in this position, but it is entirely the fault of their parents for bringing them here illegally in the first place.”
The university on Tuesday released a statement.
“As a part of a global movement that addresses human need in more than 160 countries, we believe it inconsistent to ignore the education of our neighbors,” said Dan Boone, president of Trevecca, in the statement. ”There are no foreigners in the kingdom of God.”