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(February 3, 2017 – Jarret Cummings) Earlier this year, EDUCAUSE supported the broader higher education community by joining comments advocating for the Bar Removal of Individuals who Dream and Grow our Economy (BRIDGE) Act. The bill would establish in law the temporary protections provided to individuals who registered with the federal government under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Former President Obama established DACA via executive order in 2012. The program provides undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children and meet certain conditions (e.g., currently in school or hold a high school degree or equivalent, have no felony convictions) with protection from deportation as well as the legal right to work in the United States for two years, subject to renewal.

Since the program has its basis in an executive order, it can be changed or rescinded by a subsequent executive order. Media reports suggest that the Trump Administration is considering one; a leaked draft suggests the Administration won’t immediately terminate the program, but rather it will eliminate the ability of affected individuals to renew their registrations. Thus, DACA participants would lose the right to work legally in the United States and become subject to deportation as their current two-year registration periods expire. Anxiety about these effects is heightened by the fact that DACA registrants provided the federal government with considerable personal information in joining the program, making it much easier for authorities to find and deport them if their information was used for that purpose.

The BRIDGE Act would eliminate such concerns for the near term by establishing DACA protections (and requirements) in law for three years. The bill’s proponents believe this will provide enough time for Congress and the Administration to pass comprehensive legislation to overhaul the nation’s immigration system. They anticipate that the results will include some form of permanent, legal immigration status for individuals who qualified for BRIDGE Act protections.

The American Council on Education (ACE) put forward the first letter in support of the BRIDGE Act that EDUCAUSE joined along with 19 other associations. The letter addresses the bill’s original sponsors, Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Dick Durbin (D-IL), and encourages them to work toward its rapid passage given the impact that DACA’s demise would have on thousands of higher education students and their institutions.

The second letter, advanced by the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) and signed by 44 colleges, universities, associations, and related organizations (including EDUCAUSE), addresses not only the original Senate sponsors, but also the subsequent House sponsors; the leaders of both the House and Senate are copied as well. This letter discusses the value of the protections established under DACA in more detail and highlights the importance to the country of ensuring continued educational opportunity via BRIDGE for higher education students currently covered by DACA.

Jarret Cummings is the Director of Policy and Government Relations for EDUCAUSE.