Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs at the University of Massachusetts Boston, Gail DiSabatino, sent a memo on Monday Jan. 22 urging on-campus DACA students to renew their DACA status before immigrant work permits expire on March 5 of this year. The memo was also signed by Marie Bowen, the university’s vice chancellor for human resources.
The memo read: “While the long-term future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program remains uncertain and is the focus of national debate, a federal court ruling has created a pressing opportunity for some individuals to pursue DACA renewals. The university strongly encourages eligible students and staff to act promptly.”
DACA statuses that are renewed by March will secure immigrants’ citizenship, work permits, and access to education and future legal employment, the memo explained.
At UMass Boston, which is considered the most diverse school on the East Coast, hearing stories about DACA students is not uncommon.
For Taylor Driggers, a UMass Boston senior and a track athlete, hearing the voices of DACA recipients hit home.
According to Driggers, there are five to seven people on her team who are not U.S citizens. “It was literally the next day, or two days, after the election, here we are at track practice having this meeting where five, six, seven students aren’t even U.S citizens.”
“It was frightening for people who I’m with every single day and I didn’t even think about that,” Driggers said. “I could only imagine how scary it is now that these things are actually coming into effect.”
In response to the memo sent to the university, Driggers explained that it was lacking something.
“At first I was kind of upset about it because there wasn’t really an answer,” Driggers told The Mass Media. “Why aren’t we having petitions or forums?"
Another UMass Boston student, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Mass Media that the memo was issued in response to the pressure placed on the university's diverse student body. That pressure being the result of the obstacles currently faced by the university — unprotected DACA students on campus, the current $30 million deficit, which is still to be reduced to $5 million by the end of the fiscal year, and the layoffs of nearly 36 faculty and staff members made in early November to deal with the university’s financial constraints. “It feels like now you’re under pressure and you have to say something now because we are a liberal state and a liberal school,” the student said.
“I think the school is in a hole now and it’s just trying to claw itself out,” the student added.
According to Driggers, although DACA renewals for those who already have it are only offered until March, the memo came from a place of weakness. “Most people who probably got the email are probably on the same boat I’m in. We know about it but we don’t know what to do about it or even if we can do anything about it.”
"But at the same time, it’s not the university’s fault that our president sucks,” she added.
Until then, members of the administration claimed in the memo that they will be working in Washington D.C to advocate for a political solution for the security of UMass Boston’s DACA students.