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Dreamers Issue Front and Center During State of Union Address

January 31, 2018


President Trump’s State of the ​​Union address last night featured an issue of critical importance to higher education—immigration. 

The president did not explicitly mention postsecondary education during his speech, but the long-standing issue of Dreamers was front and center. He advocated for legal status and a 12-year pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million Dreamers in exchange for $25 billion for a border wall with Mexico and sweeping changes to current visa programs, including limits on family reunification visas.

The good news is that the president’s immigration proposal provides more substantial protections for Dreamers than previously offered by the White House. The proposal goes beyond offering legal status to just the roughly 800,000 Dreamers who had been enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy when the president rescinded it last September. 

However, he is conditioning the protection for Dreamers on making significant changes to the legal immigration system, and with little opportunity for discussion. These proposals are vigorously opposed by many Democrats, moderate Republicans, and pro-immigration rights organizations. 

But the plan may represent progress on the specific issue of protecting Dreamers by moving the talks forward on Capitol Hill with an explicit list from the White House. In an editorial this weekend, The Washington Post posited that the president’s framework “contains the elements of an imaginable deal. Legislators who want to get to yes should seize on those elements and start working.”

As ACE President Ted Mitchell has said, Dreamers should not be held hostage to a political face-off. A bipartisan compromise is needed.

For more information and to contact lawmakers through the Protect Dreamers Higher Education Coalition webpage, click here​.

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