BVU President Responds to Trump Action to Rescind DACA, Students Speak Out


Photo by Emily Kenny

Madeleine McCormick, Co-Editor-in-Chief

On Tuesday, September 5, the Office of the President at Buena Vista University (BVU) released a statement expressing “deep disappointment” with President Donald Trump’s decision to begin rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The BVU statement, signed by President Josh Merchant, invited students affected to come forward for support if needed, as the university joined 37 other institutions urging the Trump administration to preserve DACA.

Earlier on Sept. 5, the U.S. Justice Department announced plans to end DACA, the Obama-era program that allowed undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children to remain in the country. In the announcement, the Trump administration also issued a six-month month delay and charged Congress with coming up with a replacement for DACA. Congressional leaders are now working to find a solution.

The memo issued by Merchant noted that BVU prides itself as institution of inclusion, offering many resources promoting diversity on campus.

“In times like these it is important to reaffirm our commitment to our students, as well as continue our passion for an all-inclusive and open campus environment,” said President Merchant. “We have always treated each other with respect and have valued diverse opinions/perspectives. We will continue to do so without question.”

The memo assures the BVU community, and those affected that this decision would not impact their financial assistance or aid, or their ability to graduate as planned. The university will not release information about students, faculty or staff unless required by law, and campus security officials will not be collecting immigration information from students.

While Merchant touts respect of diverse perspectives, some students were concerned with the school’s statement, and felt the institution was expressing biased political viewpoints.

BVU junior Nate Haveman shared the memo on Facebook via a screenshot of the email with a response: “Well this was interesting. Not quite sure how to think about this when the school, representing a large group of people, takes sides in a situation.”

The Tack spoke with Haveman, who clarified his statement saying the “large group of people” referenced in his comment refers to those who may agree with President Trump’s action.

“I don’t know enough about this issue to speak about why I disagree, but I do agree with our President, and I was raised to respect authority,” said Haveman.

Haveman noted the “deep disappointment” phrase within the university statement, and cited this rhetoric as his reasoning behind taking the issue to Facebook.

Other students agreeing with Haveman revealed themselves in the comments, echoing similar reasoning and expressing their discomfort with the statement.

BVU sophomore Iran Carlos expresses polar opposite concerns as she herself is a DREAMer, and a recipient of DACA.

Carlos was born in the northern city of Reynosa, Mexico, about a thirty-minute walk from the U.S. border. Her parents brought her to the United States at nine months old to escape the dangers of their life in Mexico, such as drug cartels, poverty and government corruption.

“I didn’t know I was undocumented until I was 14,” said Carlos. “I was raised an Iowan. I hardly speak Spanish. I don’t know any other life than this one.”

When she was younger, Carlos noticed many of her friends and classmates receiving permits, and Iran wanted to know when it would be her turn.

“My parents would just get very uncomfortable, like they didn’t know what to say when I would talk about it,” said Carlos. “One day they finally told me it could never happen, but as soon as President Obama introduced DACA, my mother was right on it.”

Carlos’ mother pioneered her daughter’s citizenship, and soon Carlos was able to receive her driving permit, passport, and official documentation.

“I didn’t tell any of my friends, not until senior year. I was embarrassed.”

Carlos plans to move forward as normal, and follow her parents’ guidance.

“They told me not to worry about anything, and that they would take care of everything,” Carlos said.

Carlos is working with a team at BVU to schedule an event to inform the BVU community and surrounding public of the effects this decision could have. She hopes sharing her story will encourage others to see things from a different perspective.

Working with President Merchant, Professor of Digital Media Dr. Andrea Frantz, Multicultural Engagement Leadership Team (MELT) leaders, Student Senate leaders, and possible others, Carlos is helping to plan a panel of immigration experts, lawyers, and DREAMers to share their stories at an event tentatively scheduled for mid-October.

President of MELT junior Karla Trujillo expressed disappointment with the Trump administration, although she saw it coming.  

“This was one of the campaign promises, and we knew this was coming,” said Trujillo. “We’re all really anxious about the six month grace period because this is affecting 800,000 students across the nation.”

Trujillo references back to November after Trump was elected into office, and the Geisinger Student Leadership Center (GSLC) was opened as a safe space for students to come and express their concerns privately. The GSLC will continue to be a safe space for students to come for guidance and open conversation regarding the issues that impact student life.

“If they would like to come and talk in this office, they can,” said Trujillo. “Buena Vista University prides itself on being a family. We live among [the DREAMers]. They are our family.”

Trujillo hopes the upcoming event will engage students to becoming more open and empathetic to those in compromising situations.

“I think we all need to be more empathetic, not just at BVU, but in the world,” she said.