Livingstone

Baylor President Linda Livingstone addresses the media after meeting with the Board of Regents earlier this year. She released a statement Wednesday saying the university will continue to support its students in the wake of President Trump's decision to end DACA protections in six months.

Staff photo — Jerry Larson, file

Baylor University will not waver on its commitment to students in the wake of President Donald Trump’s plan to end a program that extends legal status to certain young immigrants, according to a statement President Linda Livingstone released Wednesday.

But the university will not take a stance on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, spokesman Jason Cook said.

Trump's plan will end DACA protections in six months, and the president has said he expects Congress to find a legislative solution by then.

Baylor is committed to providing continued support to all affected students, according to Livingstone’s statement.

“Fostering a caring community that is diverse and vibrant is at the core of who we are as a Christian institution,” she wrote. “We are called to spread the love of Christ — at home and abroad — as we strive each and every day to be His hands and feet. DACA students have been an important part of the Baylor Family for several years.”

The Baylor Law School Immigration Clinic has helped more than 300 Waco-area residents, including students, with DACA-related and other immigration needs since 2012, according to the statement.

When asked whether the university administration supports the dismantling of DACA, Cook said, “Baylor’s position is that we are going to maintain our commitment in support for our students.”

Cook said university officials presume there are Baylor students who are part of the DACA program, but they do not know how many because the university does not collect that information.

Livingstone wrote that the university will protect student privacy, as required under federal law, and the university police department will comply with all federal laws. She also directed students to the university’s Center for Global Engagement, which Cook said regularly works with students regarding visas, documentations, financial aid and other matters.

“I assure you, Baylor will not waver in our commitment to support all of our students and celebrate the diversity of our student body,” Livingstone wrote.

Religion graduate student Laura Lysen said Livingstone’s message is a vast improvement over recent messages from the university on other immigration-related issues.

Lysen was a co-author of a petition early this year that asked Baylor to declare itself a sanctuary campus “that will refuse to comply with immigration investigations or deportations to the fullest extent possible, including denying access to university property.”

Then-interim President David Garland declined to declare the university a sanctuary campus, saying the term lacks specificity and that many of the petition’s requests were already Baylor policy.

Livingstone’s message is reassuring that the university is on the side of undocumented students, and a good starting point, Lysen said.

“I am sad that we’ve reduced ourselves to taking back from these students the tenuous status they had found in their own home society, that there is so little we have seemed able to offer them at Baylor so far, that I don’t even know how these students themselves are hearing this statement and all of this news, when they are the ones who matter here,” she said.

Livingstone’s statement also includes links for individuals to find and contact their elected officials, which speaks volumes, said Hope Mustakim, a Waco Immigrants Alliance volunteer and community organizer.

“We need people to realize the power of their voice collectively,” Mustakim said. “You may think you’re one person calling but when 10 students call and then 20 students call, it can make a difference.”

Though some immigrant advocates said they appreciate the general message, Father Nicholas Krause, assisting priest at Christ Church Waco, said Livingstone’s statement lacks specificity on key policies.

It did not touch on policies concerning the role of campus police, their relationship to city police and immigration authorities and did not mention a requirement for warrants for Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials to enter campus property, said Krause, who is also a religion graduate student.

“We hope for the administration to make public and accessible the specifics of these policies in order to ensure the security and protection of vulnerable members of our university community,” he said.

Multiple higher education leaders released statements taking a position on DACA, which President Barack Obama enacted in 2012 to create protections for young immigrants who were brought to the United States when they were children, or remained here, without legal authorization.

University of Texas System Chancellor William H. McRaven in a statement said the UT System will always follow the law and that Congress must create a way for DACA recipients to become citizens.

“My administration stands in support of efforts to find a legislative solution to allow DACA beneficiaries to maintain their current status, and to complete their degrees,” McRaven wrote.

Pennsylvania State University President Eric J. Barron released a statement saying every student at the university has earned the right to be there based on their academic talent and hard work.

University of California President Janet Napolitano wrote in a statement she is deeply troubled by the decision to end the DACA program.

“This backward-thinking, far-reaching move threatens to separate families and derail the futures of some of this country’s brightest young minds, thousands of whom currently attend or have graduated from the University of California,” she wrote.

Indiana University President Michael McRobbie wrote in a statement that ending the DACA program will undermine the university’s ability to educate students to prepare them for a lifetime of informed and active global citizenship.

“As these bright, talented and high-achieving students and alumni work and study here, they contribute greatly toward strengthening the civic, cultural, social and economic fabric of our state,” McRobbie wrote.

Tom Millay, Baylor Graduate Student Association policy chair and Graduate Theological Fellowship President, said he is glad Livingstone spoke out on the decision.

“However, I also know that one of the biggest challenges DACA students may face is financial,” Millay said. “Without protected status, FAFSA loans and legal employment are placed in jeopardy. I, therefore, hope that Baylor will find a way to address the precarious financial state of the affected students.”

Cassie L. Smith has covered county government for the Tribune-Herald since June 2014. She previously worked as a reporter for the Beaumont Enterprise and The Eagle in Bryan-College Station. Smith graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington.

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