Area colleges have sought to reassure students after the Trump administration announced it would phase out an Obama-era immigration program that protects about 120,000 Texans from deportation.
“First of all, we always do what is right for our students,” Amarillo College President Russell Lowery-Hart said in a statement. “We will continue to love and support them in their endeavors at the college. For us, functionally, today is the same as yesterday.
“We will wait, with the President, for Congress to formally act on protecting our students. We are going to educate everyone who is willing for the good of the communities we serve.”
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions last week announced the Trump administration would rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — or DACA — with a six-month delay.
The program was established by President Barack Obama in 2012 and has provided a renewable, two-year work permit and protection from deportation for undocumented immigrants younger than 30 who were brought to the U.S. by their parents.
It covers nearly 800,000 people.
AC and West Texas A&M University said they don’t track student participation in DACA, but sought to make sure DACA recipients were welcome on their campuses.
“We will continue to foster a safe, welcoming learning environment for students from diverse backgrounds seeking to expand their opportunities through education,” the Texas A&M University System, which includes West Texas A&M University, said in a statement.
“As a general rule, we cannot provide students with individual legal counsel, but we encourage those who need it to seek outside assistance.”
President Trump said he would give Congress six months to “legalize” DACA.
The delay on the reversal is a “ticking time bomb” for some in Amarillo, said Julio Salazar, a 24-year-old DACA recipient and Amarillo car salesman who posted a widely shared Facebook video about the end of the program.
Salazar said he migrated to the U.S. illegally from Mexico with his parents when he was 1 year old.
He said he attends WT on and off, taking semesters off to work because he is not eligible for federal student aid as an undocumented student.
Salazar said he had held out hope that he could become a U.S. citizen. Congress has repeatedly tried to create a path to citizenship for DACA recipients by passing the “Dream Act.” DACA recipients are often called “Dreamers” in reference to the failed legislation.
“I feel American,” Salazar said. “In my heart, I’m American. It weighs on you that people don’t see that. You’re scared that you’re going to have to start over.”
Amarillo’s congressman, Rep. Mac Thornberry has criticized Obama’s implementation of DACA but left the door open to a legislative path to citizenship.
“Now Congress must step up and pass legislation that will treat these young people fairly and will provide a long-term solution,” Thornberry, R-Clarendon, said in a statement. .
”At the same time, we should act to improve enforcement of our laws so that this situation is not repeated in the future.”
President Donald Trump has sought to reassure immigrants protected by DACA that they will not be subject to deportation during the phase-out period.
“For all of those (DACA) that are concerned about your status during the six-month period, you have nothing to worry about — No action!” he tweeted.