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Pelton Supports Immigration Reform

Emerson College President Lee Pelton signed on to an amicus brief filed in a Supreme Court case supporting President Obama’s executive actions that protect millions of immigrant families from deportation and separation.

The nation’s highest court will hear arguments in April in United States v. Texas, which challenges two of Obama’s November 2014 executive actions: Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

DAPA defers deportation for certain undocumented immigrants with children who are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents, and allows those immigrants to apply for temporary, renewable work authorization. DACA, originally instituted in 2012, does the same for young people who were brought to the country by undocumented parents as children. The 2014 expansion raised the age ceiling for eligible applicants.

Pelton said in his statement that the programs offer a route for undocumented families and their children to attain higher education.

“Every young person born, raised, and educated at secondary schools in the United States, documented or not, deserves to attend college if she or he wishes. Nothing less will do because to do less would rob our nation of its great promise and bright future,” Pelton wrote.

Shortly after Obama announced the initiatives, Texas and 25 other states challenged them in a lawsuit. A federal district court in Texas issued an order that put the programs on hold in February 2015, and a majority of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld the decision. In January, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, until which time, the program is on hold.

“It is my hope that the proposed federal policies will move forward so that undocumented young people and their families may begin a process that will allow them rightfully to pursue opportunities, including higher education, so they might become contributing members of our wonderfully and increasingly diverse society,” Pelton wrote. “In this way, we set the table of bounty for all our citizens, not just a privileged few, standing together and united as one nation with the hope that our nation’s motto, e pluribus unum, becomes a living creed.”

Not all undocumented immigrants or their children are eligible for the deferrals, which last for three years. Immigrants applying for DAPA must have continuously lived in the United States since before January 1, 2010; cannot have a significant record of criminal convictions; and must pass a background check. DACA applicants must be enrolled in a secondary education program, have graduated from one, or be a U.S. military veteran; and cannot have a substantial criminal record or pose a threat to the nation.

Fight for Families, the coalition leading the charge against United States v. Texas, estimates that 5 million people would benefit from DAPA/enhanced DACA going forward, and that the initiatives would increase the GDP by $230 billion over 10 years.

Other elected officials and community leaders signing on to the amicus brief include Congressman Seth Moulton, D-MA; Congressman Joseph Kennedy III, D-MA; Cambridge City Councilor Leland Cheung, and immigration lawyer Jeff Goldman.

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