College presidents: Protect our students, pass the Dream Act

College presidents: Protect our students, pass the Dream Act
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One month ago, the lives of 800,000 young people around our nation were put in jeopardy, with the decision by the White House to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. This decision fails to understand the overwhelmingly positive impact that the DACA program has had for so many students, and the devastating consequences that rescinding it will have on them, their families, our schools, our communities and our country.

 We cannot set aside the invaluable contributions of these students and their passion and commitment to the work of our colleges and our country.

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We cannot forget the impact of their contributions to our economy — estimated at $460 billion over the next decade.

 

We cannot ignore the joy they bring to our communities and the degree to which we are strengthened by their presence. 

We believe, as presidents of colleges and universities, it is imperative that we protect these young people through the passage of the Dream Act. They have grown up here in America. They’ve gone to grade school, middle school and high school with our children. They are student body presidents, medical students and doctoral candidates. Some serve in high school ROTC and volunteer in their churches. Others help single parents raising younger siblings and tutor their peers as they prepare for college. They are members of our communities.  They have done all the things we expect of our young people, and for their efforts so many have been able to earn places on our college campuses. They want — and deserve — the chance to continue learning and living in America without the constant fear of deportation. 

We have seen the contributions that these extraordinary young people make to our campuses and our communities. Colleges and universities are about opportunity and the pursuit of each and every student's version of the American dream. No matter who they are — or where they came from — every student deserves an equal shot at success. We take responsibility for fostering academic and social environments that give every student the means and opportunity to pursue a better future.

Across our nation, our higher education community is coming together in support of our Dreamers. This week, the American Council on Education and colleges and universities around the country are contributing their voices to a national campaign: “Higher Education Week” in support of Protecting Dreamers. To launch this week, our institutions — which represent public and private as well as two- and four-year institutions in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. — have come together to reflect on the invaluable presence of these students on our campuses. Our region has approximately 23,000 DACA recipients and we know that almost half of all DACA recipients are in school or pursuing a college degree.  

These young people belong here. They have played by our rules since the day they arrived as minors with their parents. They have done everything we could expect of them. They have earned their places on our campuses. They are poised to contribute to the future of our nation. We have the capacity, and responsibility, as a nation to provide a permanent bipartisan legislative solution. 

We call upon Congress to pass the bipartisan DREAM Act so that these talented and hardworking students, brought here as children by parents who only wished for a better life, are able to get the shot at success and the American dream that they so rightfully deserve.

Ángel Cabrera is president of George Mason University. John J. DeGioia is president of Georgetown University. DeRionne P. Pollard is president of Montgomery College. Scott Ralls is president of Northern Virginia Community College.