University of Chicago President Robert Zimmer Signs Letter Supporting DACA

President Zimmer was one of over 300 college presidents to sign a statement in support of the Deferred Action or Childhood Arrivals immigration policy.

University of Chicago president Robert J. Zimmer signed a statement yesterday supporting the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigration policy. 

DACA is an executive action that was ordered by President Barack Obama in 2012. It protects children and young adults who entered the United States illegally from deportation. 

Zimmer joined more than 300 other college presidents who have signed the letter in the past week. By signing the statement, the presidents voiced their support for DACA and offered to meet with U.S. leaders to discuss the issue. 

“To our country’s leaders we say that DACA should be upheld, continued, and expanded. We are prepared to meet with you to present our case,” the letter reads. “Since the advent of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in 2012, we have seen the critical benefits of this program for our students, and the highly positive impacts on our institutions and communities.” 

In 2010, the University said that it could not take a stance on the DREAM Act, a failed piece of legislation that would have created a path to citizenship for undocumented high school graduates who entered the United States before age 16 and meet other criteria. The University cited the 1967 Kalven Report, which states that it must remain neutral on political issues.  

Zimmer was not immediately available for comment on his signing of the letter or on why he does not perceive his signature to violate the Kalven report. "Supporting our students’ ability to participate fully at the University is consistent with the principles outlined in the Kalven Report," University spokesperson Jeremy Manier wrote in an email.

The statement does not explicitly mention the election of Donald Trump, whose 10-point immigration plan states that he will “immediately terminate” DACA. 

More than 740,000 people have been approved for DACA, which Trump would be able to revoke when he takes office. 

In a November 21 video, Trump listed a number of executive actions that he says he will order on his first day in office. That list did not include revoking the executive action on DACA, but he said that he will direct the Department of Labor to investigate “abuses of visa programs that undercut the American worker.” 

On November 18, Provost Daniel Diermeier sent a campus-wide e-mail reaffirming the University’s commitment to supporting undocumented students.

A student group comprised of undocumented students and allies at the University of Chicago—the Coalition for Immigrant Rights (UCCIR)—praised the recent statements of support for undocumented students by University administrators. 

"In addition to the letter of support from Provost Diermeier, UCCIR appreciates the growing support at the University of Chicago, including President Zimmer’s signature in support of DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals," the group said in a statement. "The solidarity of the campuses of Colleges and Universities across the country has proven to be empowering. Seeing that they are collaborating and organizing, both at the administrative level, and also at the student and faculty level has profoundly moved us."

This article was updated Tuesday at 1:20 p.m. and again at 4:40 p.m.