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With DACA’s end in sight, Washington colleges and officials urge Congress to act

Protesters hold up signs during a rally supporting Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, outside of the White House in Washington, on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017.
Protesters hold up signs during a rally supporting Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, outside of the White House in Washington, on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017. AP

Officials and colleges in Whatcom County are urging Congress to act to protect undocumented immigrants brought in the the U.S. as children after the announcement Tuesday morning that President Donald Trump’s administration will phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, if a solution is not reached by March 5.

The presidents of Western Washington University, Bellingham Technical College and Whatcom Community College joined 50 other colleges in Washington state in signing a statement of support for DACA Tuesday. The letter, signed by all community and technical colleges, public colleges and universities and independent colleges in the state, urges Congress to pass the DREAM Act or similar legislation.

There are 17,843 DACA recipients in Washington state, according to the most recent data – which goes through March 2017 – from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

WWU President Sabah Randhawa said Western would maintain policies, including not asking for immigration status or allowing the removal – or interrogation – of students or employees from campus by immigration authorities without a warrant. The WWU Foundation has set up two crowdfunding opportunities for those who want to donate to undocumented students.

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Western Washington University President Sabah Randhawa said the university would maintain policies, including not asking for immigration status of students. Philip A. Dwyer pdwyer@bhamherald.com

“At a time when all Western students should be able to focus on preparing for the academic year and their bright futures beyond Western, I know this speculation about changing DACA is enormously stressful,” Randhawa said in a news release.

Whatcom Community College officials said they do not share students’ records. School districts in Whatcom County are following the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s guidance, sent to all state superintendents in February, which emphasizes that the state’s public education system does not function as an “arm of federal immigration services.”

Bellingham Mayor Kelli Linville said the decision to revoke DACA is “not logical,” adding she joined WithDreamers.com with other state and city officials around the nation to support DACA.

“These are hard-working individuals who have lived in the U.S. their whole lives. This is their country and they contribute both economically and socially to the richness of our culture,” Linville said. “President Obama had the policy right. Deport people based on their behavior and inability to follow the law.”

Victoria Matey, Western’s Blue Group historian, said she hopes local officials will do more than sign petitions and letters, but also work with the people affected to make change. The Blue Group is made up of undocumented students at Western and their supporters.

“It’s going to be a lot of work, but I think a lot of us have been working so hard and fighting so long that this is just a part of the journey,” Matey said.

Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a news conference Tuesday morning that his office has been working with a “small group of about four states,” including attorneys general from California and New York over the past week. Ferguson said legal action would come “very soon,” but details are still being worked out.

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Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson. Elaine Thompson AP

Members of the state’s Democratic congressional delegation, including Sens. Patty Murray, Maria Cantwell, and Reps. Suzan DelBene and Rick Larsen, sent a letter to Trump Tuesday urging him to reconsider and work with Congress.

Northwest Immigrant Rights Project released a community advisory in response to the announcement and is telling current DACA recipients to renew before Oct. 5 if their status and work authorization end on or before March 5. New applications will not be accepted, but applications and renewal requests already submitted will be reviewed. NIRP is telling those with pending applications and qualified individuals who have not applied for DACA to consult an attorney.

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