While the fate of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program hangs in the political balance, students at Texas Tech University are rallying behind a new way to protect the rights of DACA recipients: the Bridge Act.
The DACA program was implemented by executive order under President Obama in 2012 and grants temporary status to undocumented immigrants who entered the United States as children. During his campaign for the Presidency, President Trump stated that he would get rid of DACA. But so far in his presidency, he has not taken any actions on DACA. President Trump has shown more sympathy for DACA recipients, stating in a recent interview, “To me, it’s one of the most difficult subjects I have, because you have these incredible kids.”
The Bridge Act, which has been introduced in the House and Senate would put the protections for DACA students into law. The bill has a bi-partisan array of co-sponsors, as well as a number of supporters at Texas Tech.
“It’s a very reasonable act to ensure provisional protection for the students who fall under this so that they can feel secure and welcome, so that if they are going to study abroad or just do research or just take classes, they can still do that at Texas Tech,” said John Michael Metz, a TTU student Senator who helped to author a resolution in the student senate calling for support for the Bridge Act.
The resolution was passed in February. It calls for support for the DACA students on campus and also expresses for the support for the Bridge Act, calling upon Congressman Jodey Arrington, Senator John Cornyn, and Senator Ted Cruz to do the same, “so that all Texas Tech students will be able to pursue an education and will not be discriminated against in any way.”
The student senators told EverythingLubbock.com that as students, they study alongside DACA recipients and see the direct impacts on “dreamers” whose education, work, and status are in jeopardy.
“One of the members of the executive team of the Student Government Association last year was a DACA student, and we also have a lot of friends who are DACA students, I have a lot of friends who graduated and are still considered DACA students trying to see if they can get into medical school and law school at this point,” explained TTU Student Senator Farah Mechref, who also helped to author the resolution. “So this really does have a large impact on a lot of students especially at Texas Tech.”
The executive team member Mechref referred to is also hopeful that the Bridge Act will pass. Her name is Saba Nafees, she came to the United States from Pakistan as a child when her family decided it was no longer safe for them to live in Lahore. Nafees’ grandparents were legal citizens in Texas and were able to sponsor her family. But her grandparents passed away shortly after Nafees moved to the U.S., leaving Nafees and her family undocumented.
DACA protected Nafees and her siblings, providing temporary security as well as the chance to obtain a driver’s license and to work in the U.S. Nafees is incredibly involved both at TTU and as a global citizen, outside of leadership in student government, she has traveled around the country and around the globe for leadership opportunities.
Nafees is clear, even with the protections of DACA, life under the deferred action program is not easy.
“There are just so many obstacles at every single stage, you know even though I’m a Ph.D. student, I can’t get federal grants, but I pay taxes,” she explained.
But Nafees said that the conflicting messages from the Trump Administration about the fate of DACA have left her with uncertainty.
‘Many things have been unpredictable and I think with regards to dreamers like ourselves, DACA recipients, undocumented immigrants all throughout the country,” she said. “Because we’re all kind of confused, actually quite confused because we don’t know what will happen for DACA we don’t know what will happen for all the undocumented immigrants we have in this country,” she said.
Nafees added that if President Trump opts to remove DACA, her life and the lives of other DACA recipients will be changed completely.
“Because the moment DACA gets taken away means we won’t be able to work legally,” she explained.
Nafees is comforted to hear about the TTU Senate resolution as well as the support from bi-partisan lawmakers for the Bridge Act.
“I feel more encouraged and supported and I hope more and more people look into this and support it and realize we need some change to happen,” she said.
Melissa Salazar, an immigration attorney with Whittenburg Law explained that the Bridge Act would have more power to protect DACA recipients than DACA alone; as a law it would be more difficult to repeal than an executive order.
She explained that everything about DACA remains the same currently, in fact eligible people can still apply for DACA now. However, President Trump has the power to change that.
” [The Bridge Act] is more of something temporary, they don’t hope that [the Bridge Act is] something permanent, they hope that in the future there may be something permanent, something permanent that leads to their residency,” Salazar explained.
She said that her law firm sees many clients who are DACA recipients living in the Lubbock community, many of whom are working professionals.
“DACA clients right now are pretty concerned for their future, they are wondering what’s going to happen, they will call and ask has anything changed for them and at this time nothing has changed,” Salazar said.
Salazar believes the Bridge Act could provide a viable temporary solution for those who came to the U.S. as children by allotting them more time with protected status.
“In general DACA students, we live a life at peril, we are uncertain about what will happen in our future, so we really need to make sure that we keep fighting and more than anything we join hands with policy makers, with the rest of our community, that we join hands together so we can continue the fight,” said Nafees.
Nafees uses mathematics to look for insights in biology, she loves math and hopes she can continue learning and teaching at Texas Tech.
“I mean I see myself as an American, as a contributing member of society and I would hope to be able to continue to do that,” she said.