This week, four graduate student leaders from UW’s Graduate Student & Professional Senate (GPSS) visited Washington D.C. to meet with Congressional staff and advocate for their priorities as graduate students across the country and in Washington specifically. The annual trip to D.C. was put on hold the past few years due to the pandemic, making this year’s visit a great opportunity to reconnect with offices in person and update them on graduate student concerns. The group, which included A.J. Balatico (GPSS President), Kaustubh Yadav (GPSS and SAGE Communications Director), Janis Shin (TABS Chair), and Ella Spurlock (GPSS Exec Senator, Science and Policy Chair), met with 11 of the Washington delegation’s offices where they discussed support for higher education, international students, and research opportunities and advocated for efforts to diversify academic pipelines, ease the visa processes for international students, and expand direct financial support to graduate students.
On October 5th, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a 2021 ruling that struck down the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The 2021 decision by Judge Hanen of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas found that the program is illegal, stating that the Obama administration did not have the authority to institute the DACA program the way that they did – under a memorandum by the Department of Homeland Security.
The October 5th decision did not end the program — DACA recipients who are already enrolled in the program are still protected and their work authorizations are still valid. Those that are already enrolled can also continue to renew their DACA grants, however first-time applications are still not being processed.
Back in late August, the Biden administration released a new rule that codifies the DACA program into federal regulation that would go into effect on October 31st. In its ruling, the Fifth Circuit sent the case back to Judge Hanen in Texas to consider the impact of the administration’s new rule and judge its legality. The new rule has a similar structure as the current DACA program and faces similar limitations – even if Judge Hanan rules positively on Biden’s rule, it cannot provide Dreamers with permanent legal status or fully protect them from legal challenges in the future. Only Congress can fully protect Dreamers.
After the decision from the Fifth Circuit, President Biden, along with several advocacy groups, called on Congress to pass permanent protection for DACA recipients. The House already passed a bill in March of 2021 to provide Dreamers with a pathway to citizenship, but the Senate has not considered it so far. Some Democratic senators have called for Congress to pass DACA legislation during the lame duck period after the midterms but the biggest hurdle for Democrats to pass immigration legislation is the Senate filibuster – they will need all 50 Democrats and 10 Republicans to agree to a bill. So far this has seemed unlikely, but it still could be the best chance for Democrats, especially if Republicans take the majority in the House or the Senate in the next Congress.
If Biden’s rule is struck down again, further appeals are expected and DACA is expected to be heard by the Supreme Court this term or next term. This would be the third time that a case regarding the DACA program has been taken up by the Supreme Court. The first time, in 2016, the Court was deadlocked at 4-4 which ended up blocking an expanded version of DACA. The second was in 2020 when the Court ruled 5-4 that the Trump administration improperly ended DACA, which allowed it to stay in place. This would be the first time that the current, more conservative leaning Court would hear a case regarding the legality of the program itself.
UW recognizes in its 2022 Federal Agenda the need for comprehensive immigration reform which includes a permanent legal fix for DACA-eligible recipients and their families. The office will continue to monitor and provide updates on DACA in Congress and in the courts.
More information about the decision can be found here and here.
The University of Washington has published our 2022 Federal Agenda reaffirming our commitment to a robust partnership with the federal government. You can view the agenda here.
On March 24th at 12pm PT, Director of Federal Relations Sarah Castro will participate in a Town Hall highlighting the key elements of our federal agenda. Members of the UW community can register here.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced Ukrainian nationals present in the United States since March 1, 2022 will be eligible for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for at least the next 18 months due to the ongoing armed conflict. Press release available here.
The Office of Federal Relations will host a virtual town hall for the campus community on Thursday, March 24th from 12pm-1pm PT. Our staff will provide an update on the federal budget, infrastructure and competitiveness bills, and preview the UW’s 2022 federal agenda. This will be followed by an opportunity for Q&A. Register here (NetID restricted).