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Emory University continues push against DACA rescission, cites McCarthy-era ruling

Claire Sterk Emory

The role of Emory University's new top diversity officer is to serve as advisor to President Claire Sterk. File/Credit: emory.edu

By David Pendered

Emory University is continuing to support the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, joining 16 other leading universities in urging the U.S. Court of Appeals in New York to support the program and reject the Trump administration’s effort to end DACA.

Claire Sterk Emory

Emory President Claire Sterk has committed to, ‘welcome and support DACA students as members of our university community.’ File/Credit: emory.edu

The institutions filed an amicus brief on April 11 with the U.S Court of Appeals for the Second District. The court is considering the administration’s appeal of a DACA ruling from the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, which forcefully rejected efforts to terminate the program.

One part of the argument is that the universities intentionally comb the globe to find the most promising students. These students are enrolled without regard to their immigration status or ability to pay the cost of the education.

This policy of recruitment and enrollment results from the schools’ mission, which the brief defines with language from a 1957 U.S. Supreme Court ruling by Associate Justice Felix Frankfurter. Writing in a landmark ruling on academic freedom in a McCarthy-era case against a college professor, Frankfurter observed:

  • “It is the business of a university to provide that atmosphere which is most conducive to speculation, experiment and creation. It is an atmosphere in which there prevail `the four essential freedoms’ of a university – to determine for itself on academic grounds who may teach, what may be taught, how it shall be taught, and who may be admitted to study.”

In addition, the brief contends United States will suffer if the students are deported because the program was rescinded. The students have the education and desire to contribute to the U.S., the brief contends.

U.S. Associate Justice Felix Frankfurter

U.S. Associate Justice Felix Frankfurter

The brief contains a quote from the president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, L. Rafael Reif, who emigrated from Venezuela to attend college in the U.S.

Reif’s parents fled Eastern Europe in the 1930s, settled first in Equador, then in Columbia, then in Venezuela, where Reif was born. Reif earned an undergraduate degree in Venezuela before enrolling in Stanford University in 1974, where he earned a masters degree in electrical engineering followed by a doctorate degree in electrical engineering in 1979. Reif was elected as MIT president in 2012, according to a report by MIT News.

Here’s a portion of the brief that contains Reif’s comment:

  • “The DACA students at amici institutions—and the many thousands more enrolled at other colleges and universities—are by definition the product of this nation’s education system and the communities that support it.
  • “Through the opportunities provided by American institutions of higher education all over this country, including amici’s, these young people now have the skills to give back— in ways big and small—to the country that raised them. And they want nothing more than the opportunity to do so. “[D]riving them out” now “would be throwing away a tremendous national investment” for no discernible benefit,’ [citing Reif].”

Reif’s story doesn’t appear in the brief. The success stories of current-day college students are told. None attends Emory.

Emory has been on the leading edge of the national battle over DACA since late 2016. Emory President Claire E. Sterk and two other top administrators delivered a letter that contained a straight-forward promise: “We will continue to welcome and support DACA students as members of our university community.”


MIT President L. Rafael Reif

MIT President L. Rafael Reif contends that deporting DACA students amounts to, ‘throwing away a tremendous national investment.’ Credit: mit.edu

David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.


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