Home Law OPINION: Pres. Nellis needs a concrete road map for supporting DACA

OPINION: Pres. Nellis needs a concrete road map for supporting DACA

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This banner welcoming Ohio U President Nellis hangs outside his office in Cutler Hall.

Already, Ohio U’s administration is advocating for DACA and against Donald Trump’s rhetoric. But Opinion Editor Zach Gheen says Athens’ undocumented community needs less talk and more action.

Ohio University President Duane Nellis will advocate for Ohio U’s students who utilize the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program on Wednesday in Washington, D.C. President Donald Trump’s administration announced its intention to end the program,

putting the fate of the some 800,000 beneficiaries up in the air until Congress comes up with a response. The number of DACA students at Ohio U is unknown.

DACA offers both protection from deportation and a work permit to individuals who were 15 or younger during 2007 and who entered the U.S. without proper documentation. Applicants must have been under 31 as of June 15, 2012, and must have maintained a clean criminal record. In addition, applicants must currently be in school, or have completed either high school or a GED program or must be an honorably discharged member of a branch of the U.S. military.

Duane Nellis, Board of Trustee Appointment Announcement
Photo courtesy of Ohio University.

Issues surrounding undocumented individuals in Athens have been at the forefront of many community members’ minds. In January,

then Ohio U-president Roderick McDavis expressed his support for DACA in a statement. This move was not enough to satisfy all community members, however, and it ultimately culminated in the now infamous sit-in at Baker University Center, where around 70 individuals were arrested.

The most immediate difference between the approach of the Nellis administration versus that of McDavis’ is the presence of a tangible action. McDavis sent letters, whereas Nellis is planning on meeting face-to-face with representatives. The issued statements are largely the same: both express their support for DACA and support their stance with the university’s commitment to cultural acceptance.

However, the symbolism behind physically meeting representatives distinguishes an evolution from the prior administration’s advocacy. Whether this action by the Nellis administration proves to be any more effective than the McDavis administration’s efforts in calming student fears and convincing Congress remains to be seen.

Read statements concerning DACA from current Ohio U President Duane Nellis (September 2017) and former Ohio U President Roderick McDavis (January 2017) here: 

Nellis McDavis DACA Press Releases by Connor Perrett on Scribd

Nellis’ planned actions are a step in the right direction to support Athens’ DACA recipients, but more has to be done. The McDavis administration played it too safe in regards to how it engaged with this sensitive issue. To effectively advocate for undocumented students, there has to be a road map set in place as to how the university intends to uphold its stated values and commitments to all students, regardless of their status.

This could take a number of forms. Concrete details could be drafted to declare a sanctuary city or campus. Immigration status could be added to Ohio U’s discrimination policy.

The shift from letters to representatives to advocating in D.C. is a good first step, but the process cannot, and should not, begin and end there. People’s lives could be incredibly and immensely changed if DACA were to end. The administration has, as have those before it, acknowledged the role it plays as an advocate for its students. There is an opportunity here to make true progress for undocumented students at Ohio U.

This decision has the capability of dramatically altering an unknown number of Ohio U students’ lives. They need more than lip service and political posturing, and it is now on the Nellis administration to address this issue head-on. Here’s hoping the administration has the fortitude to continue the fight.

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