Nearly 10,000 people in Indiana are approved for benefits through Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program – also called DACA – which protects undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children, and thousands more could be eligible, according to the Migration Policy Institute.
The Trump administration confirmed Tuesday it will end DACA in six months, but Hoosier enrollees and advocates hope Congress will intervene before then.
Some Indiana colleges and lawmakers spoke out against the White House’s decision and pledged support for those affected.
DACA has been in limbo since President Trump took office, but the news of its official end was a blow to Sylvia Babcock. She’s the executive director of Latino service agency Su Casa in Bartholomew County, and she says she works with many DACA students and families.
“They can legally have a driver’s license, so they’re getting up at all hours of the night, you know, to get family members to work … and DACA students are buying the family’s first homes here,” Babcock says. “But I don’t know of one DACA student who [has] ever said, I wish I didn’t have that responsibility.”
Su Casa serves about 2,300 Latino families in Bartholomew County, but Babcock doesn’t know exactly how many are undocumented or using DACA. She says they’re waiting to hear exactly what will happen when DACA ends. In the meantime, they plan to write to Congress, asking lawmakers to legalize the program.
And she says her DACA kids “will continue being the examples that they need to be.”
“I hear resolve in their voices and in their messages,” Babcock says. “And I would encourage them and I would encourage our community to continue supporting that resolve.”
Some of Indiana’s public higher education institutions spoke out against the Trump administration’s action and lamented the political nature of immigration discussions.
Indiana University President Michael McRobbie says he is “deeply disappointed” by the decision and pledged for IU to remain “fully committed” to DACA students. As of last year, around 200 students in the program were enrolled at the university.
“Our university will not waver in its longstanding commitment to the diverse and inclusive environment that is vital to an excellent education,” McRobbie said in a statement.
Ivy Tech Community College President Sue Ellspermann and Indiana State University President Dan Bradley both called for political leaders to quickly resolve the issue.
“It is very unfortunate that this has become a political issue,” Bradley said in a statement. “I feel personally for the students affected by this decision.”
The debate over immigration and access to higher education will likely be on the agenda at the Indiana Statehouse next year.
State lawmakers are now discussing changes to a 2011 law that prohibits undocumented students from paying in-state tuition at public colleges. At most state colleges, students not enrolled in DACA are required to pay the more expensive out-of-state cost.
The law was approved by former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels. Daniels, now president of Purdue University, has joined other higher education leaders in signing a letter in support of DACA.
Columbus and Indianapolis are among the cities holding pro-DACA rallies Tuesday night. The Indianapolis event is at St. Gabriel Catholic Church at 5:30 p.m. In Columbus, supporters will gather at 6:30 p.m. outside City Hall.
WFYI’s Eric Weddle contributed reporting. This is a developing story. Check back for updates.