GREENSBORO — Guilford College and Elon University are standing with undocumented students in an upcoming U.S. Supreme Court case.
The two local institutions are among the 165 U.S. college and universities that signed a "friend of the court" brief in an upcoming case regarding Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.
DACA, a federal program, allows more than 700,000 young immigrants to get work permits, attend colleges and avoid deportation. An estimated 120,000 DACA recipients are enrolled in post-secondary education.
In a statement issued Tuesday, Guilford College President Jane Fernandes said many DACA recipients are the first in their families to attend college. She said Guilford has "a good number" of DACA students enrolled.
For them, "DACA represents an unprecedented opportunity to secure a higher education and build the academic foundation to enter their desired career field," Fernandes said. "For our students — whether aspiring nurses, doctors, attorneys, engineers, or more — DACA unlocked educational and career fields long thought unobtainable. Our country cannot and must not slam shut the door of opportunity on these aspiring Americans.”
Elon University President Connie Ledoux Book in a statement issued Wednesday said DACA has allowed many young people to go to college, find a career and give back to their communities.
"Removing DACA would deny our students, alumni and many others across the country the ability to earn their degree, continue their employment and subject them to immediate deportation," Book said. "That would be a tragedy for them and a great loss for colleges and universities and, indeed, our nation."
The amicus brief was coordinated by the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, a group of college leaders that supports immigrant, international and undocumented students. Fernandes serves on the group's national steering committee.
The brief was endorsed by public and private two-year and four-year schools in 32 states and the District of Columbia. Other signers include the Connecticut, Colorado and Illinois state university systems, the University of Michigan, Williams College in Massachusetts and Rice University in Houston.
Guilford College has been out front nationally on issues involving refugees, immigrants and international students.
In 2018, the college's student body president gained national attention for speaking in front of the Capitol in support of DACA. Last fall, Guilford and three other colleges sued in federal court to stop a new federal policy they say would make it easier for international students to overstay their visas and face long bans from the United States. In September, English professor Diya Abdo won a national award for civic engagement for her work with Every Campus A Refuge, a program that houses refugee families on the Guilford campus.
President Barack Obama authorized DACA by executive order in 2012. Five years later, President Donald Trump called the program illegal and rescinded this order. The DACA program has remained in place amid a series of legal challenges.
A federal court in California in 2018 blocked the DACA repeal on procedural grounds. The Supreme Court will hear Trump's appeal in the California case and two other related cases. Oral arguments are set for Nov. 12 in Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California.
Editor's note: This story was updated Oct. 9 to include a comment from the Elon University president.