Bethel’s campus responds to President Donald Trump’s announcement to end a program from Barack Obama’s administration.
By Maddie DeBilzan & Sarah Nelson
Taz Song’ony, executive director of the United Cultures of Bethel, spent her Wednesday evening watching an indigenous Aztec group dance for their freedom.
The junior reconciliation studies and theatre major participated in a protest against President Donald Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals plan in front of Hennepin County officials, which involved a sacred ceremony through dance. A “beautiful protest,” she said.
Although Song’ony makes it clear that she comes from a privileged point of view – she has American citizenship – she has friends who aren’t so lucky. She went to the DACA protest to stand in solidarity with them.
“If the roles were reversed,” she said, “I’d expect my friends to do the same for me.”
On Sept. 5, the Justice Department announced it is ending DACA, an Obama-era program that allowed undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children to remain in the country. The Trump administration said it will give Congress six months to find a replacement program.
Two days after the announcement, Bethel University Provost Deb Harless sent a campus-wide email stating the university “is deeply troubled” by the decision, and “implore Congress to act wisely and swiftly to pass legislation to protect and care for persons who have been covered by DACA.”
According to Harless, Bethel leadership is careful when considering sending a campus-wide email. But on this particular issue, Harless said she, President Jay Barnes and Chief Diversity Officer Ruben Rivera didn’t hesitate.
“It just felt like we had to respond,” Harless said. “The immigrants affected by this are our neighbors.”
According to student body vice president Sterling Harer, Bethel Student Senate did not reach out to Harless, but Harer thought Harless’ email showed care for students affected by DACA policies.
Posters voicing solidarity with DACA/DREAMer students started to pop up throughout campus, specifically on the doors of faculty offices. The yellow poster, which states “Protect all undocumented people. No human being is illegal,” was circulated by philosophy professor Sara Shady, who received the design from a student.
Shady also said her reaction against the Justice Department’s statement was a no-brainer.
“I know we have DACA students on our campus and not all students are aware of that,” Shady said. “It’s easy for us to think about it in the abstract, but for DACA students on our campus, I want them to know they are loved and cared about and the community understands their vulnerability and wants to stand in solidarity with them.”
Political science professor Andrew Bramsen said the DACA issue is complex, and the difficult nature stems from the fact that DACA is an executive order, not a law.
According to Bramsen, there are two ways to interpret what the Trump administration is doing. The first, and Bramsen said most dominant narrative, is that Trump is an anti-immigration candidate who is looking to fulfill promises to his base. Trump’s past rhetoric, Bramsen said, supports this.
Alternatively, one could view this situation as Trump pointing out that DACA should have gone through Congress in the first place in order to prevent the program from being pulled by future presidents. In this scenario, Trump does have a point, Bramsen said.
Fears surrounding the situation are not illegitimate, Bramsen also said. As of now, nothing will happen, for the problems are not immediate. But six months from now, there is uncertainty over whether Congress will pass an alternative action, or if Trump will indeed deport the undocumented immigrants.
Reiterating a point made by his friend, Bramsen said the pro-life movement ought to include DACA as one of their concerns.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops refers to Trump’s decision as “unacceptable and does not reflect who we are as humans.” The United Methodist and Evangelical Lutheran Churches took similar stances.
“We’re talking about children whose parents have made decisions on their behalf,” Bramsen said.