WASHINGTON — University at Buffalo President Satish Tripathi traveled to the Capitol Wednesday to push for a bill that would allow 800,000 undocumented aliens who came to America as children to stay here — just as House Speaker Paul Ryan offered those "dreamers" new hope.
Tripathi joined academic colleagues, Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand and other lawmakers at a Capitol Hill news conference where they all argued that allowing those young people to stay in America was the right thing to do for them and for the country.
UB doesn't know exactly how many "dreamers" are enrolled there, but Tripathi said such students are fearful for their future.
"Many of these students are really no different from any other students we have," Tripathi said. "They provide diversity, they are smart, they're entrepreneurs. So really, for us not to give them the opportunity to learn, to get an education, would be really a crime."
Meantime, the Huffington Post reported that Ryan told a group of House conservatives Tuesday that it's important for lawmakers to include a solution for those undocumented young people in that year-end spending bill.
That would resolve the issue long before the March 6, 2018, deadline President Trump set for either finding a legislative fix for those young people or ending the legal protection that then-President Barack Obama granted them in 2012.
Ryan "did talk about the fact that that would be good if we could get ahead of that as opposed to being reactionary,” Rep. Mark Walker of North Carolina, who chairs the conservative Republican Study Committee, told the Huffington Post.
Including a solution for the "dreamers" in the must-pass year-end spending bill would allow Republicans to join with Democrats in passing such a measure, which may be necessary because so many Republicans oppose a long-term measure allowing the undocumented young people to stay in America.
Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or "DACA," allowed young people who were brought to America illegally as children to stay here, get a Social Security number, find a job and enroll in college.
Many Republicans have long maintained, though, that Obama never had the power to grant those young people those rights, and that only Congress could do so.
That's why President Trump said last month that on March 6 of next year, he would end the DACA program, thereby setting a deadline for congressional action.
Trump has said he would sign legislation authorizing the DACA program so long as it includes additional border security measures. But some Republicans remain flat-out opposed to any help for the dreamers, dismissing the program as amnesty for people who came here illegally.
The nationalistic Breitbart website said Wednesday: "House Speaker Paul Ryan is planning to slip amnesty for nearly 800,000 illegal aliens living in the United States into a spending bill, according to House Republicans."
But Gillibrand, a New York Democrat, said Congress should act quickly to pass the "DREAM Act," the legislation aimed at helping help young people who worry that the legal protection Obama offered them will soon disappear.
“We must do everything we can to protect our dreamers from being deported, and to protect them from being targeted and marginalized,” Gillibrand said. “We need to stand up for our dreamers and keep fighting in the Senate to finally pass the bipartisan DREAM Act.”
Tripathi, who attended the news conference with Kristina Johnson, chancellor of the State University of New York system, and officials from public universities in California, said he expects Congress to come up with a solution for the dreamers.
"It seems like there is really some level of support on both sides," he said. "So definitely, I'm optimistic that they will come together because there are 800,000 lives involved. You're talking about people who have no other place that they've known as home."