From left, UNT President Neal Smatresk, Texas A&M University-Commerce President Ray… more
Presidents of three North Texas universities roundly bashed the Trump administration’s plan to end a program that protects children who were brought into the country illegally from deportation, saying the move will severely hurt higher education and America’s competitiveness for the world’s brightest minds.
The University of North Texas has more than 400 students now protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that Trump plans to end, and there are 800,000 DACA students in the country, university President Neal Smatresk said at an education forum in Dallas.
“This was a bad move,” Smatresk said. “The DACA students have come here, they’ve worked through our high school system, they’ve entered college, they’ve shown that they’re productive citizens, and many of them are working for a living as they go to college. The right thing to do is to give them a path to citizenship, not block that path.”
The United States has the finest university system in the world and depends on students from abroad — especially Asia, Texas A&M University-Commerce President Dr. Ray Keck said at the forum, which was put on by the North Dallas Chamber of Commerce.
All Texas universities have experienced a drop in international students this year as anti-immigrant sentiment has escalated in the United States, Keck said. New Zealand, Australia and other countries have good university programs conducted in English that are available to “bright, STEM seeking students from all over Asia,” and without DACA, students will increasingly gravitate there, Keck said.
“It’s not just the 800,000 students,” he said. “It’s not just the heartless victimization of children who had nothing to do with their fate and are now living in the only country they’ve ever known. It’s what it’s going to do to our ability to attract talent from abroad, particularly in math and science.”
Trump on Tuesday announced that his administration would not accept any new DACA applications, starting immediately, and that any two-year DACA permits expiring after March 5, 2018, would not be renewed. The Obama-era program is designed to protect young immigrants brought to the U.S. as children from being deported and allows them to work and study.
Richard C. Benson, president of the University of Texas at Dallas, said he doesn’t know how many DACA students the university has because “we make a point of not asking the immigration status of our students.” Benson said he’s sure “it’s a substantial number.”
“UT-Dallas has been growing by leaps and bounds, but we’re actually seeing substantial declines in the number of applications from international students, many of them from China and India,” Benson said. “These students are redirecting to other countries. Canada, Australia, England and others are seeing major increases. This, of course, is a reaction to the perceived climate in the United States.”
Smatresk said America has traditionally drawn the best and brightest because “we are the world’s biggest clearinghouse for big ideas and new thinking.”
“What is happening now is contrary to that tradition, and it will not bode well for us,” he said. “Let’s do everything we can to continue to attract the best and brightest and build a path for prosperity.”