With the release of the Fiscal ‘18 budget proposal, and the school-year drawing to a close, international students and undocumented immigrants are met with new uncertainties and challenges. Let’s revisit some of the key issues and discuss how students and the campus community may be impacted during the summer months.
First, both the original and revised Travel Ban Executive Orders have been blocked on multiple fronts by the country’s judicial system. Last week Maryland’s court injunction against the ban was brought to a head through a 4th Circuit Appeals decision that found the revised executive order discriminatory. In response, the Trump administration has indicated it will bring the case to the Supreme Court, where newly appointed Supreme Court Justice, Neil Gorsuch, may cast the deciding vote. The 9th Circuit Appeals Court case against the Hawaii injunction may not be finalized before the case reaches the Supreme Court, but ultimately, the case is up against a similar debate around First Amendment rights for the government to establish religion. While the Supreme Court justices run down party lines five conservative-leaning to four liberal-leaning, the issue of religious liberty is heavily supported across the aisle.
The travel ban debate extends to the public domain and the campus community. A recently conducted public opinion poll shows that 45 as opposed to 39 percent of respondents agreed with the 4th Circuit Appeals decision to uphold the blocked ban, and only a small majority, 57 and 52 percent, respectively, believed that one, the travel ban was not in effect, and two, that the order was targeted at Muslims. This indicates general uncertainty regarding the value of the ban as well as its likelihood of implementation and is telling of rising fears on campus as students look to administrators for guidance during the summer months. While unlikely, the Court may choose to break the summer recess if timeliness of the case takes precedent. If so, students from the six countries represented in the ban may risk re-entry should they travel internationally.
Several institutions such as University of California Berkeley and Ohio University have attempted to mitigate concerns by raising funding to cover summertime housing and dining costs for apprehensive international students. Administrators note that students seeking assistance don’t necessarily represent one of the six countries listed in the ban, and that the mounting fear extends to the international community at large. Emergency aid funding, academic mapping, enhanced community services, and on-going assessment may all come in handy for international students as the year draws to a close.
The new administration has further cemented a distaste for international students through an April Executive Order, “Buy American and Hire American,” which calls for a review of the H1-B visa program and other temporary worker programs to determine effectiveness in prioritizing American workers and products. Like the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, H1-B visa availability has not been stymied since the change in administration, and unlike DACA, major changes to temporary visa programs are determined by Congress.
Director of Policy Research and Advocacy Teri Hind’s described some of the fragility to the DACA program in the February blogpost, “DACA Explained: Why it’s vulnerable under the Trump Administration.” While the program could be altered under executive order, President Trump, and Department of Homeland Security Jeff Kelly have yet to tackle DACA, despite declaring it “unconstitutional” during the campaign trail. After his first 100 days of presidency, former followers of Trump’s immigration campaign, including the Americans for Legal Immigration PAC, have pulled support in light of his inaction.
While the new administration has not technically touched DACA, both DACA recipients and undocumented students alike face increasing uncertainty on campus. DHS released a number of implementation memos in February, detailing an increase in federal funding to both Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and border security, and the new administration’s most recent Fiscal ’18 budget proposal requests an additional $2.7 billion to be put towards tightened immigration reform. Further, the proposal targets undocumented immigrants through a change in requirement to access the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC). While DACA recipients hold social security numbers, other undocumented students and members of the campus community do not, and thousands could be denied integral tax credits should the proposal pass through Congress.
An additional provision stipulated in the budget proposal mandates cooperation between local law enforcement and ICE and denies funding to municipalities and agencies claiming sanctuary status. While both March’s skinny budget and May’s budget proposal have received significant pushback, the proposals are telling of the new administration’s platform. Further, inconsistent messaging from the administration indicating both that DACA recipients are to be deprioritized, and that no categories of undocumented immigrants will be exempt from detainment, require campus administrators to safety plan around worse case scenarios.
For a launching point, Kevin Escudero provides Eight Steps to Establish Support Systems for Undocumented Students in his May article in Diverse Issues in Higher Education. Most of these— emphasizing intersectional inclusivity on campus, building community spaces, and providing students with legal consultation—focus on institutional reform, but others, specifically a recommendation to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between campus and local police may infringe on state sanctioned anti-sanctuary campus policy. TX SB 4, enacted in Texas on May 7 and scheduled to take effect on September 1, will allow campus law enforcement to report a person’s status to ICE, and prohibit the creation of policy that limits their ability to do so. While TX SB 4 is the only piece of legislation of its kind that has passed, similar legislation has been introduced and failed to move forward in both Louisiana and Maine.