Texas Federal Judge Rules DACA Unlawful
On July 16, a federal judge in Texas ruled the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program unlawful, holding the Obama administration violated the Administrative Procedure Act (ACA) by failing to solicit comments before it implemented the policy. Judge Andrew Hanen wrote, “D.H.S. failed to engage in the statutorily mandated process…so DACA never gained status as a legally binding policy that could impose duties or obligations.”
The ruling prevents the Biden administration from processing and approving new DACA applications. However, current DACA recipients are still allowed to keep and renew their status as the case moves to the appeals process. President Biden released a statement expressing disappointment with the decision and urged Congress to provide a permanent legislative solution to protect Dreamers. APLU expressed concerns with the court decision and called on Congress to provide permanent protections for Dreamers and for DHS to move expediently in its planned regulatory process for DACA. DHS has posted an FAQ on the decision’s impact on the DACA program.
The Senate Democrats’ $3.5 trillion infrastructure framework, which they hope to pass through reconciliation later this year, includes legal permanent residency for immigrants as a priority. It remains to be determined whether the Senate parliamentarian will find such immigration policy changes consistent with rules for passing legislation through budget reconciliation. Additionally, the Department of Homeland Security is expected to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking to preserve and fortify DACA. APLU is working with partner organizations to advance advocacy steps in support of legislation the higher education community has long championed to provide permanent relief to Dreamers.
APLU, Higher Ed Orgs Send Letter Endorsing Tax-Free Pell Grant Act
APLU joined higher education partners on a letter to Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) endorsing the Tax-Free Pell Grant Act. The bill would eliminate the potential taxation of Pell Grant funds used for non-tuition higher education costs like room and board, allow low- to moderate-income college students to receive the full benefits of Pell and the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC), and expand the AOTC and Lifetime Learning Credit (LLC) to cover child care, digital device access, and other critical student expenses.
APLU, Other Associations Request Guidance on Resumption of Student Loan Repayments
APLU and partner presidential higher education associations sent a letter to Department of Education (ED) Secretary Miguel Cardona requesting guidance on the administration’s plans to transition federal student loan borrowers back into repayment. ED paused federal student loan repayments through September 30, 2021 to help borrowers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
With repayments set to resume in less than 3 months, ED has not put in place a clear plan for transitioning the more than 40 million student loan borrowers back into active repayment after being on pause for well over a year. Earlier this month, ED took the unusual step of formally requesting the White House extend the federal student loan repayment pause through the end of January 2022. The letter urges ED to take action and to develop a plan that includes “clear requirements; is easy to understand; is communicated well in advance of the start of repayment; and reflects the diversity of borrower circumstances.”
OSTP Announces Public Listening Sessions on Scientific Integrity
On July 14, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) announced a series of public listening sessions from July 28-30 on scientific integrity and evidence-based policymaking. The sessions will focus on communications, science and education, and use of scientific and technical information. Specific dates and registration information are available here.
Participants will have up to two minutes to comment. Per the announcement, “Participants in all virtual listening sessions may also comment on the predominant challenges they perceive to scientific integrity in Federal agencies and effective practices for minimizing political or other inappropriate interference in the conduct, communication, or use of Federal science.”
As a reminder, earlier this month, OSTP released a Request for Information (RFI) seeking comments “to help improve the effectiveness of Federal scientific integrity policies to enhance public trust in science.” APLU has joined AAAS, AAMC, AAU and COGR in submitting comments to the RFI. Comments are due by July 28.
APLU, Other Associations Express Concerns with DOE Screening Requirements on Foreign Nationals
APLU, the Association of American Universities, and the Council on Governmental Relations sent a letter to Department of Energy (DOE) Acting Under Secretary for Science and Energy Kathleen Hogan, raising concerns about the implementation of DOE Order 142.3B and requesting a meeting to further discuss the deleterious consequences of the policy.
The order, which was approved on January 15, 2021, calls for additional screening requirements on foreign nationals with access to certain DOE sites, information, and technologies. Several APLU member institutions have reported that DOE has removed principal investigators, supporting research staff and students from certain applied energy research projects due to implementation of the Order. These notifications have caused significant concerns and uncertainty. The associations hope to gain clarity from DOE on the appropriate application of this policy.