Harper College calls on Congress to give legal status to 'Dreamers'

Harper College officials are calling on federal legislators to enact legal protections for undocumented youth brought to the United States illegally as children - a group that includes students who attend the Palatine-based community college.

A resolution approved unanimously this month by the college's board of trustees encourages Congress to come up with a "permanent legislative solution" that would extend legal status to an estimated 800,000 young immigrants, commonly referred to as "Dreamers."

Harper doesn't keep track of how many such students attend the college. Anecdotally, college officials say it's a large number, since there's a support group for them on campus.

"This clearly is an issue that affects our campus and virtually every campus around the country," board Chairman Greg Dowell said.

In September, President Donald Trump suspended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, created in 2012, that gave protections to some young immigrants if they met certain requirements. Trump has given Congress until March to enact legislation that could save the program.

Harper President Ken Ender recommended the college's board approve the resolution after being proposed by Achieving the Dream, a network of some 220 colleges nationwide that advocates for low-income and minority students. Harper has been a member of the group since 2009. Other local community colleges in the organization include Elgin, Oakton and Triton, though Harper appears to be the first in the area to have approved the resolution.

"Harper College believes that access to a high-quality education in an inclusive environment is the right of all individuals and imperative for the advancement of a strong democracy and workforce," college officials wrote in a November board of trustees packet. "We believe this right extends to undocumented young people who were brought to the United States by their parents before they were old enough to choose where to live."

In October, Harper was among dozens of schools to sign onto a letter from the American Association of Community Colleges urging Congress to pass legislation regarding the undocumented students. Other local schools on that list include the College of Lake County, Oakton and Waubonsee, plus the Illinois Community College Board and Illinois Community College Trustees Association.

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