Local universities join list of schools urging Congress to protect Dreamers

Posted at 2:20 PM, Sep 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-20 20:45:10-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Ana Chavez remembers only bits and pieces of her journey to the U.S.

Originally from El Salvador, she was just four years old when her uncle carried her on his shoulders as they crossed the river. She was with her parents and two older sisters as they entered into the country without proper documentation in order to have a better life.

The sacrifice her parents made has become a constant reminder on why she needs to succeed in school. The 20-year-old is studying to become a social worker at Trevecca Nazarene University.

"They [parents] wanted a safer place, a place where we can actually have education and just live. As I grew up, education was my place to go and that's why I value education so much," Chavez told NewsChannel 5.

Like the 700,000 people like her in the U.S., Chavez is a beneficiary of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The program was enacted by the Obama administration to avoid deportation for mostly young adults brought into the country as a child through renewable work permits.

Being a DACA recipient, or a so-called Dreamer, helped ease the worry for her family. However, many like Chavez are worried about their future, now that they are in jeopardy of being deported as President Donald Trump works to end DACA. In 2017, he announced to rescind the program but gave Congress a window to save it.

About two years later, there is no permanent solution to protect DACA recipients. Supreme Court justices are expected to hear arguments if Trump has authority to terminate the program after several federal court decisions halted his move.

"All I know is living here in Tennessee," Chavez said. "I've lived here and I'm trying to do my best here, so I don't understand why I would want to go back to somewhere I don't know."

Earlier this week, 600 universities and colleges across the country joined a letter urging Congress to come up with a bipartisan legislation to help Dreamers. Twelve of the schools are in Tennessee, including where Chavez attends.

Trevecca Nazarene Univesrity President Don Boone says his goal is to provide the best education. There are close to 100 DACA and undocumented students on campus.

"For me it's not a political issue, it's a moral issue. These are my neighbors and they've gone K-12 to school with my children, and I want them to have that same access to education," Boone said.

Boone says his DACA students, who aren't eligible for financial aid, are some of the hardest workers while taking on extra jobs to help graduate. He understands that many of them have the burden to support them financially.

"You don't need extra anxiety about your future when you're trying to figure out how to chart that kind of path," Boone added.

The letter was sent by the American Council on Education. In the letter it said, "If we are unable to provide opportunities for these individuals to fully contribute to our nation, we will be shutting the door to an entire generation of individuals who seek to contribute their best to America."

The Supreme Court hearing is in November.