ASHLAND — After the shockwave of President Donald Trump’s action against DACA (Deferred Action in Childhood Arrivals), Southern Oregon University President Linda Schott said she will resist any attempts to deport such students unless legally compelled by evidence they are a “risk to public safety.”
DACA students are those who immigrated to the U.S. as children, but without legal documentation for them or their parents. Some 800,000 such children grew up here, speak English, and many are aiming for a good education and citizenship.
The announcement by Schott, who was visiting Ashland’s sister city of Guanajuato, Mexico, continues state and SOU policy. Oregon law bars state agencies from helping investigate or arrest people whose only offense is lack of documentation for their immigration.
Her action “supersedes politics,” she said, in a statement.
“I want to assure you that SOU’s commitment to all of its students — including those who have been protected by DACA — supersedes politics,” she said. “We are obliged as an institute of higher learning to safeguard the ability of each student on our campus — regardless of immigration status, race, gender, sexual orientation, physical ability, religious affiliation or political persuasion — to pursue his or her educational dreams.”
Trump, through Attorney General Jeff Sessions, announced this week he will end DACA’s protection of young immigrants unless Congress acts within six months to protect them. It’s an Obama-era program, which SOU embraced five years ago.
“SOU will continue to protect the privacy of all students, respect the value that their differences bring to our campus and accommodate the needs of those who face obstacles in their academic paths,” she said. “We will resist immigration enforcement at SOU without legal compulsion or evidence of imminent risk to public safety.”
A statement from the Ashland School District underlined a long-standing policy that federal law requires all students to be treated equally, regardless of several categories, including national origin. Federal privacy laws prohibit release of such information except under subpoena or when asked for by police, said the statement, which won’t be released until a school board meeting Monday evening.
Devin Hutchings of the Oregon Student Association called it “a sad day for Oregon, especially for the many undocumented students OSA works for.” DACA, he said, in a statement, is the “critical lifeline” for 11,000 immigrants in the state. He urged outreach to mental health resources on campus and to Congress, noting Rep. Greg Walden, a Republican leader who represents Southern Oregon and all of Eastern Oregon, is pivotal in the debate.
“This is a heartbreaking day for the immigrant community,” Hutchings said.
Walden, in a news release, signaled no support for DACA protections, but rather pointed to the need for strong, secure borders — a Trump priority — and immigration reform.
“Like all Americans, I have compassion for those who entered our country unlawfully as children and are now in limbo in our immigration system. These are kids who know no other country as their home and, were brought here through no fault of their own, at a young age,” he said.
Walden supports “stronger security on America’s borders. Countries that do not have control of their borders, do not have control of their national security.” That security, he says, will prompt reform of the “broken” immigration system.
— John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at email@example.com.