President Sarah Bolton

President Sarah Bolton: American classrooms need Dreamers

As the Supreme Court gets ready to hear arguments on DACA, read the many benefits of keeping Dreamers in the classroom

This oped was first published by cleveland.com on Monday, Nov. 11.

WOOSTER, Ohio – “Welcome Home!”

This message was displayed on T-shirts and accentuated with pompoms, cheers, and bagpipers playing “Scotland the Brave” this August as we greeted incoming first-year students at The College of Wooster.

As a college president, there is little that rivals the traditional bookends of a student’s four-year journey with us – the day they arrive on campus nervous, excited, full of hope, determination, talent, and potential, and the day they graduate ready to lead lives of purpose.

It is an honor for me to walk the stretch of Wooster’s Beall Avenue, peeking my head through the line of sweaty car windows to shake hands and offer best wishes to our newcomers and their families from across the country and around the world. These families are counting on us to create a home away from home for their students, and ultimately, provide them what they need to become productive citizens of the world. This is a duty we take very seriously.

The College of Wooster was founded on the understanding that an excellent education requires bringing together many voices, perspectives, and ideas. Our community of learners, who come from 62 countries and 45 states—from farm towns and big cities, from dozens of faiths and cultures and perspectives—is central to our mission and to the learning that happens here.

The Supreme Court of the United States will hear oral arguments Nov. 12 in cases that will be crucial in the lives of some of our most determined and talented students, our Dreamers.

For the past seven years, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, has been a hugely successful initiative offering temporary protection from deportation and the ability to work legally to more than 700,000 young immigrants, benefiting these Dreamers, their families, and the communities in which they learn and work.

DACA is critical to the mission of my college and many others, and it brings immeasurable benefits to life both inside and outside of the classroom for all of our students. Wooster is one of the most diverse campuses in Ohio, comprised of more than 40 percent U.S. students of color and international students. And this community is one of our greatest assets in preparing students to make an impact as leaders of character and influence in a globally interconnected society.

DACA students bring valuable experiences and perspectives to our residence halls, classrooms, and campus life, and they are leaders in student clubs and organizations, sporting teams, community service, and research projects. They are among our strongest students, who go on to complete master’s, doctoral, or professional degrees; they contribute in every field of work, becoming teachers, health professionals, scientists, advocates, and more.

It’s not surprising that the students who have DACA status make such outsized contributions to our campus and to American society. Qualifying for DACA requires determination, persistence, and courage, as well as meeting strict legal conditions. Dreamers must complete high school, obtain a GED, or be currently enrolled in school in the U.S., as well as paying a significant application fee and making their way through a complex and demanding legal process, which can sometimes put undocumented family members at risk.

The Dreamers I’ve met are smart, courageous, and determined young people who have already made important contributions to society, and they are ready and eager to bring their talents to meet future needs in towns and cities around the U.S.

The government’s sudden shift in position for a situation over which Dreamers have no control creates undue fear and uncertainty, and could remove them from the homes, campuses, and communities in which they live, learn, work, and contribute so much. Dreamers should instead be focused on the bright futures ahead of them.

That’s why we are proud to be one of 165 college and university signatories for the DACA amicus brief for institutions of higher education before the Supreme Court in support of putting DACA recipients on the path to citizenship. Dreamers in colleges and universities across the country stand ready to contribute to our society in powerful ways. We stand with them.