Hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants have voluntarily come out of the shadows under an Obama administration program that offered them a temporary reprieve from deportation. Now, with Donald Trump about to take over the White House, those immigrants live in fear that the basic protections will be taken away, or worse, that the information they provided will be used against them.

That’s why we stand with the many members of the Colby College community who are speaking out in favor of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which recognizes how tightly those immigrants are woven into the American fabric, and simply assures them that they can continue to work and study in this country just as many of them have for most of their lives.

The DACA program allows undocumented immigrants who entered the country when they were under the age of 16 and who had not yet turned 31 in 2012 to apply for a two-year protected status. Those approved receive a two-year work permit and the ability to apply for a Social Security number and driver’s license. They can also travel to and from the country.

Nearly 750,000 undocumented immigrants are now taking advantage of the program, announcing that they are in the country illegally in exchange for the right to work, drive, study and bank here.

However, as a candidate, Trump said he would “immediately terminate” the program, and his pick for U.S. attorney general, Sen. Jeff Sessions, has tried to block or minimize the program on several occasions.

Since then, Trump has said he would focus immigration enforcement on those with criminal records. But that is of little solace to the immigrants who have grown up here in ways almost no different from most Americans.

They have been in classrooms and on playgrounds next to American citizens. They have been their friends and co-workers and dorm mates. In many cases, they know no other life than that in the United States, and now they feel – understandably so – that they are in danger of losing it.

For a group that broke the law and were thrust into a precarious life through no fault of their own, and which came forward on their own volition when an opportunity arose to live in the open, that’s wrong.

That’s why we are glad that 113 faculty and staff members at Colby urged the college in a Nov. 16 letter to protect the safety and place on campus for any student enrolled in the DACA program,” and that President David A. Greene joined at least 250 college and university presidents, including those at Bates and Bowdoin, in signing a statement supporting the DACA program.

Undocumented youth who have grown up here and now attend college here deserve our protection. Trump not only could repeal the program, but there is some worry that his administration could use the information provided to the federal government to target these students, if not to remove them from the country then at least to take any federal student aid they receive.

It’s heartening that so many colleges and universities recognize that these students are a part of their communities and a benefit to higher education. As we await Trump’s decisions on immigration policy, we hope that others hear that message, and prepare to come to the aid of people who have a great deal to add to our country.


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