University President Discusses DACA Decision

Sep 11, 2017

Nearly 800,000 people who illegally entered the U.S. as children years ago have been protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, in recent years.  But last week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the program would be eliminated in six months and the so-called Dreamers would be subject to deportation. President Trump gave Congress six months to address the issue.  
The move to eliminate the program angered many, including education officials.  Castleton University President David Wolk won’t say how many Dreamers are enrolled at the Vermont college.  And he says it’s stunning that DACA is now a public policy issue.

"These young people don’t deserve to be victimized again and again and again. And that’s what’s happening here. So I don’t understand the premise behind it but I do know that we have so many young students and many international students, we actually have 41 countries represented in our student population of just under 2,000. And I know that they are welcome here.  They’re having wonderful experiences. They are great young people who are doing good and doing it well and I don’t understand why we would deny them an education or a life here that they deserve. So it’s unfathomable to me that you and I are even talking about this.  So at Castleton we offer the warm embrace of a loving family. We with open arms accept our students knowing that they can make a difference here before they go out and make a difference in the world, knowing that they will transform themselves.  I can tell you having been here for 16 years so many of them have transformed me. And I love them and I want them to be educated here and have a good life. So I can tell you also that we had about 100 international students at our house and they told us their story and how this has become the beacon of opportunity for them, where they can find themselves their purpose in life, make their contribution. And I don’t understand why anyone would want to victimize them over and over again and why anyone would deny them the opportunity that they deserve."

A number of college officials criticized the announcement.  University of Vermont President Tom Sullivan reassured DACA students that federal law protects them. Middlebury College President Laurie Patton issued a statement assuring Dreamers that that the college would protect their rights.  Vermont State Colleges Chancellor Jeb Spaulding’s statement assured students that the system stands “firmly with the Dreamers.” SUNY, UMass and UConn officials have echoed those comments.

Professors from Harvard University were arrested after they blocked traffic during a protest following the Trump administration announcement.