With a chant, “Say it loud, Say it clear. Dreamers are welcome here!” more than 200 people marched on the Stony Brook University campus Thursday afternoon to support those impacted by the end of the federal program commonly known as DACA.
Students, faculty and some administrators carrying signs and blowing air horns joined the 30-minute procession — led by a coalition of campus advocacy and political groups — through the center of the academic mall. The march culminated in a gathering inside the Student Activities Center, where several speakers took to the podium.
“These are our friends and classmates. We want the university to be supporting people who were brought here while they were children,” said David Clark, 19, an applied mathematics and statistics major who is the vice president of SBU’s Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance, an equality advocacy group founded in 2000.
Immigrant student advocates as well as the campus chapters of Planned Parenthood Generation Action and College Democrats also were among the organizers.
The rally is one of several this week in the metropolitan area and in other cities like Chicago and Los Angeles since the federal government announced it would “wind down” the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. DACA protects nearly 800,000 young people brought to the United States illegally as children from immediate deportation.
College students — many who have just begun classes — are said to be among the DACA groups feeling vulnerable. Some college officials have said since the beginning of the year that immigrant students, including international students, have expressed confusion and uncertainty over their future in the United States.
Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley has been a staunch critic of immigration proposals like Trump’s executive order to ban travel from six countries earlier this year. Immediately after the Trump administration’s announcement Tuesday to end DACA, Stanley reassured students that university officials would protect the confidentiality of its students and not share private information such as immigration status.
“We have seen how the recipients of DACA have a positive impact on our campus and broader community,” Stanley said. “Diversity of perspectives, thought and understanding serves as a foundation of Stony Brook’s academic enterprise and helps our students become global citizens.”
On Thursday, Hofstra University President Stuart Rabinowitz issued a similar letter, reaffirming a promise to protect the rights of every member of the campus community.
“This is not the first time over the past year that I, along with hundreds of college and university presidents across the nation, have felt compelled to reiterate our commitment to the core values on which our institutions — and our country — are built: tolerance, respect, inclusiveness and opportunity,” Rabinowitz said.
Both Stanley and Rabinowitz joined more than 600 university presidents in a public statement asking that DACA be upheld, continued and expanded.
Stony Brook campus groups, however, were calling on university officials to promise not to allow Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents onto campus without a judicial warrant and to use the campuswide text-alert system if ICE officers do come onto the campus. University officials would not release the estimated number of students protected by DACA on Thursday.
Like hospitals, places of worship, licensed day care centers and K-12 schools, colleges and universities are defined by ICE as “sensitive locations,” where enforcement actions should not occur outside of extraordinary circumstances.
“We already have long-standing policies around what we don’t do,” said Judy Greiman, chief deputy to the president and senior vice president for community and government relations at SBU.
The school doesn’t ask for immigration status as a condition of admission and in other circumstances, she said.
Evelyn Lopez Rodriguez, a freshman from White Plains who plans to major in political science, held a sign saying, “Undocumented. Unafraid.” She was heartened to see her new college campus was taking a stand on important issues like immigrant rights.
“These students came here when they were so young. They are Americans at heart, even if a piece of paper might say otherwise. They are human just like the rest of us,” said Lopez Rodriguez, 18. “I’m a citizen, but I think those who are protected under DACA should have the same opportunities — and an education — as I do.”