Penn submits amicus brief to Supreme Court in support of DACA

Bronze sculpture of Benjamin Franklin.

The University of Pennsylvania joined with 18 other colleges and universities on Oct. 4 to file an amicus brief in the United States Supreme Court in support of an ongoing lawsuit over the Trump administration’s attempt to rescind the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

The brief was filed in support of the respondents in the 2017 case, Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California, arguing that ending DACA violates the Administrative Procedure Act and the Fifth Amendment.

The amici jointly state that the purpose of the brief is “to inform the Court about their experiences with the DACA students on their campuses and to warn of the consequences—to the students, amici, and the country—of rescinding DACA.”

In the brief, Penn and the other schools point to the shared mission of the amici institutions toeducate extraordinary students from diverse backgrounds and prepare them for leadership, active citizenship, and achievement in every field of human endeavor.”

Ending DACA, the brief warns, “would force future scholars, innovators, and leaders to choose between withdrawing to the margins of our society and national economy or returning to countries that they have never called home.” The brief further states that, “Whatever they choose, their gifts and education will be lost to this nation.”

In support of their stance, the brief shares several accounts of the accomplishments of DACA students at amici institutions. Included is the story of a President’s Innovation Prize winner, “Alfredo Muniz, who arrived with his parents in Houston, Texas when he was only a year old and went on to earn a full scholarship to attend the University of Pennsylvania, from which he graduated in 2016 with undergraduate and graduate degrees in mechanical engineering and robotics.”

The account continues, “While at Penn, Alfredo and a classmate developed XEED, a sensor-based system that collects and transmits data about limb movement in individuals with Parkinson’s disease. Healthcare professionals and patients can use this information to better assess the disease’s progress and the effectiveness of treatment.” The brief further notes that Muniz’ project XEED has the potential to help hundreds of thousands of patients around the world.

Thursday’s brief points to Muniz’ story and others noting, “DACA students are American in everything except immigration status,” and warns that “rescinding DACA would deprive the nation of invaluable resources.”

Penn has long supported federal protections for its undocumented students.

Following the repeal of DACA in September 2017, Penn President Amy Gutmann urged Congress “to act promptly to pass bipartisan legislation to permanently protect the Dreamers.” She wrote in the Almanac, “We know the Dreamers to be gifted and successful students who have grown up in our communities, attended our schools, and who are poised to make vital contributions to our nation’s economic strength, creativity, and global competitiveness.”

Thursday’s amicus brief echoes the sentiment stating that ending the DACA program “would send a clear message to the more than one million undocumented children in the United States that the trails amici’s students and alumni have blazed lead nowhere and are not worth following. That message is antithetical to the commitment to equal opportunity on which this country was founded.”

The other schools joining Penn in signing the amicus brief are Brown University, the California Institute of Technology, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Duke University, Emory University, Georgetown University, George Washington University, Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, New York University, Northwestern University, Stanford University, the University of Chicago, Vanderbilt University, Washington University in St. Louis, and Yale University.