Arkansas Colleges Debate Best Way To Help Dreamers

UA Little Rock Chancellor Andrew Rogerson addresses political and education leaders at a press conference in this photo from August.

With the repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program taking effect for most recipients next March, colleges and universities in Arkansas are weighing their options on how best to help Dreamers.

The DACA program, also known as the Dream Act, allows nearly 800,000 individuals who were brought to the United States illegally as children to have some of the same rights as U.S. citizens. The policy was established in 2012 by then-President Barack Obama, and was rescinded by the Trump administration this past September.

UA Little Rock Chancellor Andrew Rogerson is one such education leader grappling with the issue of Dreamers who are students at the university. In an interview with The LR Angle, Rogerson said it was not in the best interest of students for him to release a statement on DACA’s repeal on behalf of the university.

“My job as chancellor, if you like, is to help all our students equally, and in my mind, putting the spotlight on DACA students in this campus is not doing a service,” Rogerson said.

Out of the 48 institutions of higher learning in Arkansas, Rogerson says only three released statements regarding the end of DACA.

“That caught the attention of a couple [legislators], but one legislator in particular, who immediately sent out a survey to every chancellor in Arkansas, not the system, with specific questions to find out how many DACA students we’ve got, who their names are, and how much money we’re giving them,” Rogerson said. “The good news is, we don’t collect that data, so I could truthfully fill in a ‘don’t know.’”

Education leaders such as University of Arkansas Chancellor Joe Steinmetz and incoming Arkansas State University Chancellor Kelly Damphousse released statements in the immediate aftermath of the program’s repeal.

“The University of Arkansas believes strongly that the state of Arkansas and the greater national and global societies are strengthened by educated men and women,” Steinmetz said in the statement. “This is consistent with something I supported publicly when in December I signed on with more than 600 college and university presidents who favor supporting DACA students.”

Though there is no rough estimate of the number of DACA recipients enrolled at UA Little Rock, biology Professor Janet Lanza says there are a number of organizations helping those concerned about their status, such as the Mexican Consulate and the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation.

The deadline for existing DACA recipients to apply for one final renewal of their status passed earlier this month. Students can also contact the Immigration Clinic at the University of Arkansas School of Law if they are seeking help on their immigration status.

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