Virginia Wesleyan and Marymount universities want the Supreme Court to protect DACA

Virginia Wesleyan University's campus in Virginia Beach (Courtesy of Virginia Wesleyan University)

Virginia Wesleyan and Marymount universities were the only Virginia schools to sign on to a legal brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to protect students covered under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy that President Donald Trump cancelled in 2017.

“Virginia Wesleyan University is committed to inclusiveness and acceptance of all, especially those seeking academic and life success at our institution and others across the nation,” President Scott Miller said in a statement. Virginia Wesleyan, in Virginia Beach, was one of more than 150 colleges across the country to sign onto the amicus brief filed earlier this week.

“The amicus brief demonstrates our support for DACA and immigrant students. We stand with those aspiring citizens and urge the Supreme Court to pass a responsible, humane ruling that will preserve access to our institutions of higher education and other avenues that will ensure that those who are registered for DACA, or defined as ‘undocumented,’ may continue to make contributions to America.”

None of Virginia Wesleyan’s currently enrolled students receive DACA benefits, according to spokesperson Stephanie Smaglo. At Marymount in Arlington, about 100 enrolled students are Dreamers (the name for people who are in the United States under the DACA policy).

As a Cuban immigrant myself, I am grateful to the U.S. for the opportunities this country gave me to put myself through college and be a university president today,” Marymount President Irma Becerra said in a statement. “These DREAMers, like I did, are living out their daily lives with hope and determination to flourish and contribute to society. They should not have to live in constant fear of deportation.” 

Governing magazine estimates there were about 12,000 DACA recipients in Virginia as of 2017. The same year, there were an estimated 1,200 DACA students at Virginia colleges.

Former President Barack Obama implemented the DACA policy, which allowed people who came to the United States illegally as minors- usually with their families- to apply to be safe from deportation for two years and receive a work permit. Trump cancelled the DACA policy, an action that has been legally challenged and will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court next month. 

In the meantime, Congress has struggled to agree on a legislative solution for DACA recipients.

“Banishing them once more to immigration limbo—a predicament they had no part in creating—is not merely cruel, but irrational,” the amicus brief states. “If such an unlawful decision is allowed to stand—and these young people take their tremendous talent, enthusiasm, and skills elsewhere—we … will be the losers.”

Any college or university could sign on to the Supreme Court brief, said Jose Magaña-Salgado, spokesperson for the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, a group of higher education leaders that support immigration policies that “create a welcoming environment for immigrant, undocumented and international students.

In September, more than a dozen Virginia colleges and universities signed on to a letter to Congressional leaders urging them to agree on a bipartisan replacement for DACA. 

“We believe it is long overdue for Congress to pass bipartisan legislation, in both the House and Senate, to provide permanent protection for Dreamers—young, undocumented, high-achieving individuals brought to our country as children,” the letter reads. “We respectfully urge you to come together on a bipartisan basis to address this challenge by doing the right thing for these outstanding young people and for our country.”