Colleges and universities facilitate a global network of scholars. From faith-based institutions to large research universities, students and faculty from around the world share ideas and dialogue, and contribute to a diverse global education system.

Colleges and universities across the U.S. want to ensure that federal efforts to change the country’s immigration system, whether by enacting legislation to protect DACA and Dream-eligible individuals or enacting stricter border enforcement or national security travel restrictions, do not adversely affect the many students, researchers, faculty, medical experts, and scientists that live, work and study on our campuses. These individuals add to the diversity and excellence of colleges and universities. 


DACA refers to individuals that came to the United States as children, and have registered under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program established during the Obama Administration.  The DACA program provided qualified individuals a two-year safe harbor from deportation proceedings and a work permit. Recipients of DACA status had to adhere to certain legal requirements, including travel requirements, as part of their designated DACA status.  Currently, the DACA program has stopped accepting new applications as it awaits Congressional action to be made permanent in statute.


President Trump was active early in his administration attempting to deport illegal aliens in the U.S. with criminal backgrounds, and impose temporary travel bans to and from predominantly Muslim countries in an effort to reduce terrorism.  In addition, he made a variety of changes to the H-1B Visa program to try and control the outsourcing of U.S. jobs.  Initially, there was great concern (if not fear) throughout the higher education community that deportation efforts might target so-called DACA students, but those efforts ultimately did not materialize. 

On September 5, 2017, in response to legal challenges to the constitutionality of the DACA program, the Trump Administration announced it was phasing it out in six months.  DACA would end in its entirety in 24 months, with no new applicants accepted after September 5, the date of Administration’s announcement.  No current enrollee would lose DACA status for six months – giving Congress a specific time frame to address the plight of the individuals involved.

During the six month time frame for Congress to act, two separate federal judges ruled against the rescission of the DACA program, effectively keeping it in place – albeit on life support – while the courts decide its ultimate fate.  The Senate continued to push toward a more permanent solution.  Shortly before the March 5, 2018 “deadline,” it voted on four different bills and amendments that would have extended the program but that also included various border security measures, wall funding, and enforcement provisions.  All four attempts failed in the Senate.  The House took up two bills in June 2018, that would have also extended the DACA program by different lengths of time.  Similar to the Senate bills, the House versions contained numerous other immigration provisions.  Neither bill garnered enough votes to pass.
On February 26, 2018, the Supreme Court declined a request from the Trump Administration to expedite its ruling on the rescission of the DACA program.  However, in the fall of 2019, the Supreme Court took up the case and began formal deliberations on the legality of the rescission of the DACA program. On June 18, 2020, the Supreme Court ruled against the rescission of the DACA program. The Court ruled that the Administration’s decision to rescind the program violated the Administrative Procedures Act (APA), which sets out rulemaking procedures for federal agencies. In response to the ruling, the Trump Administration announced it would suspend authorizing new DACA program applications. 

DACA remained caught up in the political debate during the Trump/Biden presidential campaigns.  Once Joe Biden was elected president, he announced his intention to strengthen and fortify the DACA program.  However, in July 2021, a Texas court ruled that the program was illegal and the Administration stopped processing new applications.  The program can only be made permanent if Congress establishes it in statute. 

DREAM Act and Sensitive Locations

A 1982 court ruling made it illegal to deny access to a public K-12 education to any child in the U.S. regardless of immigration status.  While there is no similar requirement for obtaining a higher education, the vast majority of colleges and universities in the U.S. admit and educate undocumented students.

There is legislation introduced each year in Congress to create a path to citizenship for children brought to the U.S.  Known as the DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors), this measure allows children who arrived in the U.S. prior to age 16 to have expedited access to legal permanent resident status.  It also allows students to work, attend school, join the military, and be eligible for certain types of financial aid.

In addition, colleges and universities are among the nationally-designated sensitive locations, which have special rules and protections from deportation efforts.

Whether by Executive Order, departmental memorandum, or legislatively, changes to U.S. immigration policies will affect college and university students, faculty, researchers and scientists.

In the News


NAICU Washington Updates

What You Can Do

  • Encourage your Members of Congress to support a bipartisan solution to the uncertain future of the DACA program.


  • Higher education community letter supporting the DACA program
  • Higher education community letter supporting the Senate DREAM Act of 2019
  • Higher education community letter supporting the House Dream and Promise Act of 2019
  • Higher education community letter to Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Leader Schumer (D-NY) urging the Senate to pass a bipartisan solution to address the rescission of the DACA program
  • Higher education community letter to President Trump urging the Administration to support DACA students
  • Higher education community letter to President Trump in support of DREAMers
  • College and university presidents' letter to Homeland Security Secretary regarding President Trump's travel ban
  • Higher education community letter to Homeland Security Secretary on maintaining the United States as the destination of choice for the world’s best students, faculty and scholars

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