Yale Law School Stands Up for Dreamers After DACA Decision


As the country reacts to President Trump’s decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, Yale Law School students and faculty are already working to challenge the move and ensure “dreamers” are protected throughout the country.

Just hours after the Administration announced its DACA decision, the Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic (WIRAC) at Yale Law School filed a lawsuit on behalf of a young immigrant New Yorker and the organization Make the Road New York (MRNY) in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. The filing argues that President Trump’s actions violate federal law and the equal protection guarantee under the Constitution.

“When critical moments like this take place, Yale Law School students do not sit on the sidelines, they make headlines,” said Dean Heather Gerken

In a statement sent out to the Yale Law School community before the suit was filed, Gerken wrote that she was deeply dismayed by the President’s decision to rescind DACA. “Revocation of the program betrays our nation’s commitments to fairness and equality,” said Gerken. “Dreamers have always been a source of pride and celebration within this law school. They are – and will always be – full members of our community, and we will support them in any way we can.”

“When critical moments like this take place, Yale Law School students do not sit on the sidelines, they make headlines."
 — Dean Heather Gerken

Yale students and faculty have passionately advocated on behalf of dreamers for years. For the past five years, WIRAC students have also represented United We Dream (UWD), the largest organization of dreamers in the country. In this role, the clinic advocated for and then negotiated the implementation of DACA, which was announced by President Obama in June 2012. Over the past year, students helped UWD to draft and advocate for a new and more progressive DREAM Act, many provisions of which were incorporated into the bipartisan DREAM Act introduced this summer by Senators Dick Durbin and Lindsey Graham.

In addition, over the past seven years, WIRAC has represented UWD’s Connecticut chapter, Connecticut Students for a Dream. This involved successfully advocating for the passage of legislation in 2011 that provided undocumented residents with in-state tuition at Connecticut colleges and universities, and subsequent legislative and administrative advocacy to gain dreamers access to financial aid.

Yale Law clinics were also instrumental in filing the first nationwide legal challenge to the Trump Administration’s executive order banning refugees and other immigrants from certain countries from entering the United last January.  

As a result of WIRAC’s quick action in that case — with students and faculty working through the night as the order chaotically unfolded — the court issued a temporary stay at the national level hours later. As part of the process, the clinic distributed sample habeas petition templates, which were used by lawyers to file dozens of individual petitions around the country.

Gerken said these cases illustrate how Yale Law School is so fortunate and grateful to have “some of the finest immigration lawyers in the country on our faculty as well as a full complement of staff and students at the ready to help.”

Yale University is also leading the way in advocating on behalf of dreamers and has provided a number of resources to members of the community during this time. Read a message from President Peter Salovey.

“I’m heartened by the efforts of President Salovey and other university presidents, business leaders, political leaders in both parties, civil-rights advocates, and dreamers themselves to keep DACA in place,” said Gerken.