Commentary: Supporting students who want to stay here

This is the season when students are returning to university campuses across Ohio, including the University of Dayton and the Miami Valley region, to learn from their academic communities, and to advance communities far beyond them with their passion and innovation. As a former university administrator and now as a professor, I respectfully ask for the continued support and leadership of members of the Ohio Congressional delegation to ensure that qualified young immigrants in our communities — Dreamers as they are often called — are among these college-bound students.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) provides qualified young immigrants temporary relief from deportation and employment authorization for up to two years. Contrary to popular belief, DACA is not an amnesty program; nor does it grant relief to the entire cohort of immigrants who came to the United States as children. Strict eligibility requirements must be met including passing a background check and registering with the Department of Homeland Security. Moreover, each applicant is assessed on their individual merits.

While efforts earlier this year on the part of 70 Catholic university and college presidents, standing in solidarity with our undocumented student populations, seemed to garner initial statements of support for DACA beneficiaries from President Trump, 10 states attorneys general signed a letter in June threatening to sue the President if the program was not rescinded by Sept. 5. It seems as though this legislation, and more importantly the young people it supports, are under threat yet again.

It is worth reiterating key points of a letter signed this spring by those 70 Catholic higher education institutions, as well as the wisdom I have learned from a number of stakeholders, most notably DACA recipients themselves, as to why this legislation makes good sense for our academic communities and our nation as a whole.

In addition to contradicting our Catholic values that call on us to support society’s most vulnerable people and to respect the dignity of the human person by championing human rights like that to education, it should be stressed that subjecting the nearly 800,000 DACA recipients to deportation and removal from the workforce is extremely wasteful. These young immigrants are leaders of tomorrow pursuing degrees, contributing to our workforce, serving in our military.

Morever, these students want to work, pay taxes and contribute to the country they love and consider home. They are boosting the economy. Ohio Dreamers pay $14.1 million a year in state and local taxes, and have become job creators. In addition, 6 percent of Dreamers are entrepreneurs, creating jobs. Our nation is best served when we afford young Dreamers a pathway to succeed.

Legislative solutions for Dreamers have been introduced in both chambers in the form of Recognizing America’s Children Act, a GOP-led effort in the House, and the Dream Act, with similar bills in both chambers. These bills have strict eligibility requirements, and have welcomed bipartisan support. Congress must quickly take action on one of these bills.

As an educator, I have dedicated my life to advancing knowledge of the world around us with students from all walks of life. As a former Catholic university president, I am convinced that the pursuit of truth goes hand in hand with the pursuit of justice. Ushering these bills into law is the right — and smart — thing to do.

Daniel Curran is president emeritus of the University of Dayton.