Trevecca awaits Supreme Court decision on DACA

By Nayeli Espinoza Pena

Around 100 Trevecca students could be affected by the Supreme Court’s upcoming ruling on legislation that allows them to attend college legally.

Trevecca and other universities around the state are waiting for the Supreme Court to decide if DACA will be upheld. A decision is expected sometime this spring or summer.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals was established by former President Barrack Obama in June 2012. The order allows for DACA recipients, also known as DREAMers, to work and go to school and be protected from deportation.

Trevecca President Dan Boone, said there around 100 DACA students currently enrolled at Trevecca, is watching the situation closely, but there is no real way to plan for the decision, he said.

“I’d just be shattered. I don’t know any other way to say it,” Boone said. “The reason we take the DACA position that we do is it is neither Republican nor Democrat, it’s what Christians would do.”

Boone said if DACA is overturned he would immediately begin to work with Trevecca’s non-US Nazarene higher education institutions. He would work with them to find alternative ways to complete college, he said.

President Donald Trump ordered the end of DACA in September 2017and then three U.S district courts countered him by allowing current DACA recipients to continue renewing. The Supreme Court heard arguments on the issue in November 2019.

“It’s antithetical to the American Dream in every way,” Boone said. “We don’t teach people to dream so we can crush their dream.”

Boone said DACA was established at a time when a portion of the young population didn’t know what was going to happen in their future. Many of those students began to have hopes of what they might do in college, he said.

Alejandra Alegria Garcia is one of those students.

The junior psychology major is in the process of renewing her DACA status and ultimately hopes there would be a path to citizenship for her.

“My goal is to go into therapy and become a therapist and work with children,” she said. “I would at least like to just finish school.”

Boone has been a vocal advocate for preserving DACA, students said. After meeting some students several years ago who couldn’t apply for financial aid and therefore couldn’t attend college, Boone started working with Equal Chance for Education (ECE) to give those students an opportunity to attend Trevecca at a lower cost. ECE gives scholarships to students with a DACA status in Nashville and has helped them attend different universities in Tennessee.

As of now, private institutions across Tennessee don’t have specific plans for any potential Supreme Court rulings but continue to monitor it while making no changes to their admission process, said Claude Pressnell, president of the Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association.

“It’s really hard to prepare very much so we’re continuing to admit those students and provide them the student assistance that is within the capacity of the institution,” he said.

Many higher education officials continue to reach out to elected officials, as they have been doing it for some time now, said Pressnell.

Pressnell said Trevecca, along with many other private institutions, should continue to help provide student financial aid to these students. Institutions have procedures ready in case ICE decides to come onto their campuses. These procedures need to avoid overstepping any legalities but will help protect the students, he said.

“We want our campuses to be a safe place and then at the same time we want to make sure that we’re complying with whatever federal regulations may come down,” he said.

Boone said he has been advocating for the Evangelical Immigration Table’s Restitution Based Immigration Reform (EIT). The EIT argues that immigrants should admit to their crime, being here illegally, and over the course of seven years they pay fines/penalties. This would then lead to a pathway to becoming a legal resident. It would be the same situation for those who were brought in at a young age.

“We’re going to do everything in our power to get you in the graduation line,” Boone said. “It is my goal and my intent to hand every DACA student that we have a college diploma.”

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