(UPDATED, 5:50 p.m., with comment from Boise State University President Bob Kustra.)
Several Idaho Republican officials are applauding U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ Tuesday announcement to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, an Obama-era immigration policy that shields young undocumented immigrants from deportation.
“I appreciate the attorney general’s recognition of the constitutional problems with the Obama administration’s executive action,” Gov. Butch Otter said in a statement Tuesday. “I also support the Department of Homeland Security’s decision to phase out the DACA program in a way that will minimize the impact on current DACA beneficiaries.”
But amid a flurry of controversy following Tuesday’s announcement, DACA’s demise may mean a year of uncertainty for students and teachers across the United States.
That’s because President Trump has called on Congress to come up with a replacement plan via legislation — before the program expires March 5. What that plan will look like, or whether there will even be one, is still unclear.
And that uncertainty colored the reactions to Tuesday’s ruling.
“As this change is debated in Washington, D.C., I want our students who may be affected by the potential elimination of this program to know that you will have the full support of our faculty, staff and administration, and that I personally am joining university leaders from around the country to appeal to Congress to create a pathway to citizenship for those protected by DACA today,” Boise State University President Bob Kustra said late Tuesday afternoon.
Hundreds of Idaho students are left guessing about their futures, said Idaho schools chief Sherri Ybarra.
“It’s important for Congress and the president to sort out this federal immigration issue sooner than later,” Ybarra said in a statement Tuesday. “Many young men and women affected by such a ruling are left wondering what are their next steps as they prepare for college.”
It’s unclear how many of Idaho’s 3,100 DACA recipients are enrolled in Idaho’s K-12 system and colleges, since the State Department of Education doesn’t track that number. What is clear is that many of those recipients are Latino, by far Idaho’s largest and fastest-growing minority group.
Latinos constituted 13 percent of the state’s population in 2014, and the numbers swelled by 12 percent from 2013 to 2016. By contrast, the state’s non-Latino minority population grew by just 3 percent during that same period.
Gubernatorial candidate and U.S. Rep. Raúl Labrador and Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden also voiced their support for ending the program Tuesday, arguing that the Obama administration overstepped its legal bounds in issuing the 2012 executive order.
Labrador said the decision paves the way for “larger immigration reform.”
“Only Congress could establish such a program. Through his action today, President Trump is creating leverage for larger immigration reform, which should include border wall funding and stronger interior enforcement,” Labrador said.
Wasden was one of 10 state attorneys general who pledged to fight DACA in federal court. Otter also co-signed the attorneys generals’ June 29 letter, which threatened a federal lawsuit if the Trump administration had failed to act on DACA by Sept. 5 — today.
“The root of this entire issue is Congress’ failure to pass a law that takes into account the needs of everyday families, especially those families whose ties cross international borders,” Wasden said Tuesday. “This announcement from the administration paves the way for our federal lawmakers to finally step up and deal with this very important issue once and for all.”
While Wasden and other Idaho officials said the White House’s move will enable Congress to act on the issue, Idaho Education Association president Kari Overall criticized the decision.
“We are concerned the termination of this program will negatively impact students, educators, and classrooms throughout our state,” she said.
Idaho Education News reporter Kevin Richert contributed to this story.