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University of Illinois students and local immigration advocates rallied in the cold Tuesday to support the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program as the Supreme Court considered the fate of hundreds of thousands of “Dreamers.”

Student groups sponsored a rally at the Alma Mater highlighting an amicus brief from the UI and more than 160 other universities underscoring the importance of DACA.

Announced by President Barrack Obama in 2012, DACA allowed young people brought to the U.S. as children before June 15, 2007, to apply for a temporary status that lets them work legally and avoid deportation. The status lasts for two years and is renewable. President Donald Trump announced in 2017 that he would end the program, but that decision was challenged in court.

The amicus brief argued that rescinding DACA would severely harm talented students and alumni and adversely affect U.S. colleges and universities.

“DACA holders have made significant contributions, educationally, socially and culturally, since this administrative policy was introduced and implemented in 2012,” said Gioconda Guerra Pérez, UI assistant vice chancellor for diversity and academic inclusive excellence.

They’ve been able to attend college in most states — without financial aid — earn degrees and pursue careers, allowing them to have financial freedom, own a first home or open a business, she said.

It’s unclear how many UI students are DACA recipients, but officials have put the number at 200 or more across its three campuses. Several hundred high school and college students are affected in Champaign County, now “anxiously holding their breaths” as the Supreme Court considers the case, said Ricardo Diaz of the CU Immigration Forum, which also held a rally Tuesday evening.

The court isn’t expected to issue a decision until at least January and possibly as late as June.

“In the meantime, many jobs will be in limbo, marriages and house purchases will be put on hold, 700,000 lives and their loved ones will be affected and so will the rest of society,” Diaz said.

UI student senator Arnoldo Ayala has proposed a $3.50 student fee increase to benefit undocumented students and others who don’t qualify for federal financial aid.

Reporter/Columnist

Julie Wurth is a reporter covering the University of Illinois at The News-Gazette. Her email is jwurth@news-gazette.com, and you can follow her on Twitter (@jawurth).