Donald Trump’s impending presidency is already causing massive disruptions in the lives of some young undocumented immigrants who find themselves waiting to see what the next four years will bring.
According to a report by the Associated Press, participants in President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program—known as DREAMers—who are studying abroad while in college have begun receiving notifications from their schools to return home before President-elect Trump assumes office on January 20. While DACA allows undocumented immigrants who entered the United States as children the opportunity to temporarily avoid deportation, Trump has signaled he will cancel the program. This could prevent any DREAMers living abroad for a semester from re-entering the U.S.—maybe even permanently.
Letters sent from the California State University’s Chancellor’s office to all 23 of the system’s campuses suggested advisers contact any DREAMer currently out of the country for school, and urge them to return home before Inauguration Day, as well as reconsider any plans to study abroad in the future, the Los Angeles Times reported.
According to the Times, DACA participants are allowed to legally leave and re-enter the country by a process known as “advance parole”—a process that would be dismantled, along with the rest of DACA, should Trump follow through on his threats. Of the nearly three-quarters of a million current DACA participants, the AP reported that just over 22,000 have applied for the “advance parole” necessary to travel internationally, as of December, 2015.
“We want to make sure that students are aware of the risks,” Santa Clara University law professor Lynette Parke told the paper. “We want to be on the cautious side and want to make sure that we’re warning persons that we don’t know what’s going to happen.”
The City University of New York has joined the CSU system in its warning to DREAMers who are, or may soon be, studying abroad.
Students who could be affected expressed their fears in interviews with reporters.
“My mom is like ‘I am concerned with you not coming back, I want you to be able to come back,'” 20-year-old student and DREAMer Nancy Lopez-Ramirez told the AP ahead of a class trip to Mexico. Born in Mexico, Lopez-Ramirez entered the U.S. when she was four. Her trip is scheduled to return just days before Trump takes the oath of office.
And while Trump has, in recent days, appeared open to modifying his hardline stance on immigration as it pertains to DREAMers, there are already efforts underway in the Senate to protect DACA participants should the president-elect follow through on his earlier threats.
On December 9, Senators Dick Durbin and Lindsey Graham unveiled plans to create a new “Provisional Protected Presence” category of immigration, as part of their proposed BRIDGE act—a measure that would extend virtually the same benefits to young undocumented immigrants as DACA does now, should that program be canceled by Trump. Under the BRIDGE act, participants would be granted continued deportation deferment and, like DACA, be allowed to apply for international travel opportunities while in the United States.
Still, the BRIDGE act is far from guaranteed to become law, and given Trump’s legislative unpredictability, it’s hard to say whether he will ultimately gut DACA as promised. For the time being, then, college-aged DREAMers have one more reason to worry about what the future under Trump might hold.