MCALLEN, RGV – Texas A&M views the continued presence of DACA students at its university as an economic development issue just as much as a humanitarian one.

Chad E. Wootton, associate vice president for external affairs at Texas A&M, spoke about his university’s support for DACA students in a report to McAllen Economic Development Corporation’s board of directors.

Wootton pointed out that Texas A&M President Michael K. Young had issued a statement in support of DACA students at the time President Trump announced he was ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. He said Texas A&M University is urging the Texas congressional delegation to find a congressional solution that allows DACA students to stay in the United States and contribute to society. Without a congressional fix within the next six months, the students could be deported.

“We see this as another investment in economic development, in our young people,” Wootton said. “Texas A&M, like our partners in higher education, have students that are enrolled in that (DACA) program. Our president put out his statement encouraging our students to watch that closely and committing to the fact that every one of our students, faculty, staff, who are working or pursuing their degree are doing so legitimately by the current state laws.”

According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, nearly 790,000 young unauthorized immigrants have received work permits and deportation relief through DACA since the program was created five years ago by President Barack Obama. Obama created the program through an executive action in August 2012.

The Pew Research Group points out that the executive order gave unauthorized immigrants who came to the U.S. before age 16 – a group sometimes called “Dreamers” – a chance to stay in the U.S. to study or work, provided they meet certain conditions such as being enrolled in high school or having a high school degree or GED equivalent, and not having a serious criminal conviction. Those approved for the program are given a work permit and protection from deportation for two years, and these benefits can be renewed.

California has the most DACA recipients in the nation – 222,795. Texas is next with 124,300, while Illinois is third with 42,376. Unauthorized immigrants from Mexico make up more than three-quarters of all DACA recipients. Since the program started, 78 percent of approved applications – both initial (618,342) and renewals (622,170) – have come from Mexicans, Pew Research points out.

“While the rhetoric of the national decision certainly is causing anxiety and concern, the real activity has not yet begun. And, so, we have asked our students to remain focused,” Texas A&M’s Wootton said. “We are actively engaging our congressional members to seek a solution and to act on that solution prior to the six-month window expiring. I know everyone is doing that locally, not just in higher education, but as it impacts the destinies of these young people who are here attempting to become productive citizens. We see that as an economic development issue as much as a humanitarian one.”

Rick Anderson, executive vice president for finance and administration at UT-Rio Grande Valley, also gave a report to McAllen EDC.

“Like A&M, UTRGV has a number of DACA students and Dreamers and so we have done the same kind of things and have issued a statement from not only the president but the chancellor,” Anderson said.
“We are trying to work with those students in trying to figure out what their path forward is, including some deadlines that are coming up here, I think in early October, to make sure that they do the appropriate things related to their renewals. We have been working with various agencies here in the Rio Grande Valley to make sure our students are in the best position they can be so they can continue their education.”

Here are the most statements of Texas A&M University President Michael K. Young and UTRGV President Guy Bailey about DACA.

Michael K. Young:

The announcement yesterday by the U.S. Attorney General on plans to rescind the executive order for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) unless Congress acts to pass the legislation has generated a number of questions among our students, faculty, staff, former students and community.

I stand committed to statements made earlier this year and last November, that all students, faculty and staff of Texas A&M University are here legitimately, working and/or pursuing their degrees, and that we benefit from their presence in many ways including scholarship and friendship.

I sincerely hope that the U.S. Congress can find a way through the various considerations to determine a solution that honors the unique circumstances of these young people and their commitment to lawfully pursuing the “American Dream” of education, employment and tangible contributions to our society.

Until then, allow me to include the links below.

Helpful student resources:

The International Student Services website will continue to post updates and contains helpful fact sheets and resources;
Student Counseling Services counselors are available to support emotional and mental well-being
Helpful faculty and staff resources:
Email the Employee Assistance Program – [email protected] – with questions or concerns related to employment status;
Email [email protected] to request counseling services and/or consult the EAP web page;
Bookmark the student links provided above and share with students as needed
We know that Aggies take care of Aggies. We are truly blessed to be among the world’s largest and best universities, made stronger still by the students, faculty and staff who join us from countries around the world. Texas A&M University remains firmly committed to our purpose of higher education and those who seek to improve their personal destiny, as well as the destiny of their community, state, nation and the world.

Guy Bailey:

As the national conversation on immigration and DACA continues to evolve, I want to reaffirm that each student, staff, and faculty member who makes up our UTRGV community is an important part of our university family. Regardless of place of birth or citizenship, each one of us contributes an important voice to our diverse campus. Please remember that Diversity, Access, and Inclusion is one of our core university values; we should all live and express that value every day in our interactions with each other.

For those of you who continue to struggle with the uncertainty of our current immigration situation, a number of resources are available to help support you even as national policy continues to develop.

For students, the Student Life and Dean of Students office is there for you. They are continuously updating their website Supporting Students Who are Undocumented and are available to meet with students. Confidential support for personal issues or concerns is also available through the Counseling Center.

For staff, confidential support for personal issues or concerns is available through Human Resources in cooperation with the UT Employee Assistance Program.

For all of our UTRGV members, please remember our unwavering commitment to treat each other with respect. If you encounter behaviors that make you feel unwelcome, please use any of the resources mentioned above to report that behavior or contact our Office of Institutional Equity or University Police Department. All of these are there to support you.

Keep in mind that UTRGV does not and will not share student educational records, including citizenship and immigration records, with outside authorities without student consent, unless compelled to by law. (See additional details about FERPA at the UCentral website.) Also, the primary focus of UTRGV police remains to keep our campus community safe. They do not and will not ask students, faculty, and staff about immigration status.

The statement from Chancellor McRaven lays out the UT System’s (and UTRGV’s) position on DACA. Please refer to that statement for more information.

Last week I had the pleasure of hosting 2,000 of our students for lunch at the Picnic with the President. Each one of those students has dreams and aspirations, and it is an honor and a privilege to help them on that journey. Each one of our faculty and staff who have been working thanks to DACA have been important supporters for those students. We continue to stand firmly with them through the ups and downs of our national conversations.

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above story shows Chad E. Wootton of Texas A&M University and Rick Anderson of UT-Rio Grande Valley at a McAllen Economic Development Council meeting. (Photo: RGG/Steve Taylor)