Kansas colleges, universities struggle with DACA repeal

In this Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, file photo, President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally for Sen. Luther Strange, R-Ala., in Huntsville, Ala. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

Northwest Kansas Technical College won’t allow federal immigration officials on its campus in Goodland without a court order to protect students who might be affected by the Trump administration’s plans to rescind a program that protects from deportation immigrants brought to the country illegally when they were children.

 

Ben Schears, president of Northwest Kansas Technical College, discussed his decision last week at a gathering of state college and university presidents before the regular meeting of the Kansas Board of Regents.

He said the college has some students who are eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program and he wanted to assure them they could continue their education, The Lawrence Journal-World reported.

“I had a couple of students contact me concerned about whether they need to withdraw from classes so they can go back, essentially go back underground. I said no, keep going through your education, and we’ll do everything we can to help make sure you can,” he said.

The Lawrence Journal-World reports about 870 students attended Northwest Kansas Technical College last year, with up to 28 of them classified as “nonresident aliens,” according to a Board of Regents report. It’s not known how many of those students are in the country illegally because some may be international students studying on student visas.

For many years, Kansas has allowed non-U.S. citizens who grew up in Kansas to attend public colleges and universities and pay in-state tuition rates, as long as they met all other qualifications for admission and residency. But the decision to rescind DACA has rattled all college and university campuses, officials said.

“Systemwide, what I’ve heard from the presidents and institutional CEOs is that they really want a long-term solution,” Regents President and CEO Blake Flanders said. “And we don’t really have a role in that. It’s a federal solution, and that’s what we’re waiting on. What I’ve heard is that maybe there’s some progress being made.”

Law schools at both the University of Kansas and Washburn University are operating clinics to help students and others who will face legal issues if DACA is repealed and not replaced by another program.

Kansas Chancellor Douglas Girod said he believes few DACA students attend the university because it’s the most expensive school in the system. But he said the issue extends beyond students to family members and close friends who may be in the U.S. illegally.

Washburn University President Jerry Farley said as many as 15 DACA students attend that school in Topeka and some of them are facing tough decisions in the near future.

“They have to make some decisions about when they have to renew, because there’s a renewal period (two years) and there are some coming up in October,” Farley said. “They have to decide, are they going to ditch this and do something else? So we try to give them some advice about what the current rules are. If Congress changes the rules, it’s all up in the air again. But we’ve told them to stay in class. There shouldn’t be any problems if all their paperwork is in order.”

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