President's Blog: DACA setback demands congressional action now

Oct. 7, 2022

For all of us who care about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, the years-long fight over its legality has been frustrating. For the hundreds of thousands of individuals who rely on DACA’s protection from deportation, their precarious status is undoubtedly even more anguishing.

This week brought another disappointing development, as an appeals court ruled the original DACA program illegal. A lower court now will again review DACA’s legality in light of the Biden administration’s attempt last month to preserve it through an important rulemaking.

As I said in this space last month, the only secure and reliable way to protect Dreamers—a group that includes many Princeton students and alumni—is through legislation.  Congress must pass a law providing permanent residency rights, including a path to citizenship, for the full population of Dreamers.

DACA is one of those policy fights well worth the time and energy it takes to see justice prevail. But it’s also one that requires large and influential coalitions to make their case collectively. That is why in 2017 I became a founding member of the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, which raises awareness and appreciation among policymakers for the crucial role of immigrants in our nation’s colleges and universities.

I commend to everyone in the Princeton community the statement issued yesterday by the Alliance, which I reprint below. Our fight on behalf of Dreamers must continue, and Congress must act now.



The time to act is now

October 6, 2022
CONTACT: Diego Sánchez ([email protected])

Washington, D.C.— The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has released its decision in the case Texas v. United States to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling that DACA is illegal but stayed the results of its own decision due to the recently released DACA rule by the U.S.

Department of Homeland Security, which is set to go into effect on October 31. The Fifth Circuit sent the case back to Judge Hanen to rule on DACA’s legality in light of the new rule. As the rule is nearly identical to the original DACA memo that the Fifth Circuit struck down, legal experts are not optimistic about a positive ruling from Judge Hanen. For the time being, those with DACA are able to keep it and renew, but no new applications may be accepted.

Time is running out for Dreamers, and the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration calls on Congress to act swiftly to protect the over 600,000 people currently with DACA and many more who have been unfairly locked out of the program. DACA was never meant to be a permanent solution. Our DACAmented campus members deserve more than living court case to court case, and the nation now turns to Congress to act on the will of the American public and get it done. 

Over 400,000 students in U.S. higher education are undocumented, and less than half are DACA recipients or DACA-eligible. Every year about 100,000 undocumented young people graduate from U.S. high schools, only one-quarter of whom are estimated to be eligible for DACA. Having DACA significantly increases high school attendance and graduation rates, reducing the gap in attendance and graduation by 40 percent between citizen and non-citizen immigrants. The Presidents’ Alliance urges Congress not to wait to pass a permanent legislative solution with a pathway to citizenship. 

Cezanne Hayden-Dyer, a DACA recipient and Project Associate at the Presidents’ Alliance, stated: “Though anticipated, I am still frustrated and disheartened at hearing yesterday’s Fifth Circuit Court ruling. DACA recipients can continue to renew their protections, but the thousands of DACA-eligible persons and their families are once again left in limbo. We are all striving to find permanence in a country that has long been our home, and yet we continue to be used as political chess pieces. DACA was supposed to be a temporary solution until permanent legislation could be enacted. It has been ten years since DACA was first implemented, and we are still waiting. Our futures are on the line and it is beyond time for Congress to act.”


The nonpartisan, nonprofit Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration brings college and university presidents and chancellors together on the immigration issues that impact higher education, our students, campuses, communities, and nation. We work to advance just, forward-looking immigration policies and practices at the federal, state, and campus levels that are consistent with our heritage as a nation of immigrants and the academic values of equity and openness. The Alliance is composed of over 550 presidents and chancellors of public and private colleges and universities, enrolling over five million students in 43 states, D.C., and Puerto Rico.