President Felix Matos has never wavered in his support of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the federal program usually referred to as DACA. In 2016 he signed a statement sponsored by Pomona College in California, along with more than 700 other college and university presidents, supporting the program. He also offered to meet with national leaders to discuss the fate of the program.
Initiated under former President Barack Obama, DACA provides temporary relief for many undocumented immigrants who are under the age of 31 and were brought to this country illegally when they were minors. Instead of working off the books and being at the mercy of bosses who may have mistreated them because of their undocumented status, DACA allows them to have more job security. They are protected from deportation, are able to get job permits, and the legal protection provided under the program lasts for two years, and is renewable.
Benefits that most young people take for granted are finally within the grasp of people who had never had such opportunities. But by announcing plans to rescind the program within six months, President Trump has put them all at peril of losing these privileges once again.
One of those at risk is Queens College student Crystal Jadoonanan, who accompanied President Matos when he was interviewed by NY1 to talk about how it feels living with the uncertain future that the rescinding of the DACA program has created for her.
“It’s tough because I’m about to graduate, and now I have to think about my life without the possibility of DACA,” Jadoonanan said. “So how is my life going to change if I have a college degree, but I can’t work?”
Matos spoke about the need to continue offering support to the people affected by the possible rule change, and about hoping that Congress will make DACA the “law of the land.” He also hopes that if it becomes a permanent law, it will offer financial aid to those covered by the DACA program. When asked if he believes Congress can turn DACA into a law within the next six months, President Matos said, “I think that there is a lot of public support for DACA. It is the right thing to do from a public policy standpoint. It is the right thing to do for the economy, and it is the right thing to do from an individual and humanitarian standpoint.”
Matos talked about the setbacks that could come to immigrant families if DACA is not reinstated. “In some families, the DACA recipient might be the only person who can work legally, so they’re helping not just themselves, but in some cases they’re helping the entire family.”
While he could not say how many Queens College students are DACA recipients, he said an estimated three to four percent of all CUNY students are undocumented. Nonetheless, he ended his comments on a positive note, declaring that he is “very proud of the diversity” that makes Queens College stand out from all other CUNY schools.