February 2, 2018 - President Michael Schill and Oregon State Senate President Peter Courtney wrote the following guest opinion piece in the Oregonian newspaper, which also appears on the OregonLive website.
As presidents of the Oregon State Senate and the University of Oregon, each of us has a unique perspective on how protecting undocumented children, known as Dreamers, benefits Oregon. These protections create opportunity. They create hope. They create promise for a generation of young people.
It is also the right thing to do.
These children did not get to choose the country or the state in which they live. Their parents made that choice. They went to elementary school, middle school and high school here. They worked hard. Many participated in school activities.
This is the only country, the only state and the only home they have ever known. Today there is a major political effort to deport them to the country of their parents -- a country they don't know. Pure and simple, they are Americans in thought, word and deed.
Oregon is a leader in reaching out to these children. In 2013, the Oregon Legislative Assembly boldly embraced Dreamers by granting them the ability to attend college, pay in-state tuition rates and receive need-based financial aid. Tuition equity levels the playing field for the nearly 11,000 Oregon young people registered as part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The unjust end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program would crush their dreams of earning an education and sharing their talents in the place where they grew up, the place they consider home.
Morality dictates that these young people be allowed to remain in the United States to learn, work and make a life for themselves. Oregon is their home. To uproot them would be wrong.
Tuition equity and DACA have given them access to opportunity and the same American dream their classmates enjoy. It has allowed them to contribute to our economy in the light of day, rather than being relegated to the shadows.
That is why we urge Congress to continue the program and provide these young people a road to citizenship. It is also why we and others support Senate Bill 1563. Provisions of federal law require that prior to providing a benefit to undocumented students, including institutional financial aid, a state statute must be in place that affirms this authority. SB 1563 ensures compliance with federal law and eliminates the requirement that undocumented students must apply for the DACA program to be eligible for scholarships or in-state tuition rates.
Without this legislation, these students would lack basic protections that safeguard their right to continue their education after high school.
Lawmakers and university presidents are not so different. The reason most of us do the work we do is to provide a chance for young people to realize their full potential. Their opportunities should not be hindered by race, culture, background, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation or birthplace. We must make clear that the State of Oregon, University of Oregon and all our state universities support every student, no matter his or her immigration status.
Citizens of Oregon are valued and welcomed because of their diversity, not in spite of it. Our many differences enrich our state. They enhance the learning environments at our universities and community colleges. They help our economy flourish.
Congress should act quickly to fulfill our moral duty to protect Dreamers. In the meantime, Oregon will do its part to ensure that all our young people have the opportunity to pursue the bright future they deserve.
To punish young people brought here by their undocumented parents would be wrong. It would be cruel. It would be un-American. They are every bit a part of our American family.