Leaders of California State University, the nation's largest four-year higher education system, and the University of California today urged President-elect Donald Trump not to deport students protected by the Obama administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

During the presidential campaign, Trump vowed to shut down DACA, deport 11 million undocumented residents and build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. The GOP president-elect has already backed down on several of his promises, including the deportation vow; now he says he'll work on ejecting 3 million “criminal” immigrants here illegally.

Those protected under 2012's DACA program include the law-abiding children of undocumented parents, many of whom know no other land than this one. Nearly 214,000 people in the Golden State have requested DACA protection, with most receiving it. In a letter to Trump dated today, UC president Janet Napolitano, CSU chancellor Timothy P. White and California Community Colleges chancellor-designate Eloy Ortiz Oakley said students protected by DACA are worthy Americans.

“These sons and daughters of undocumented immigrants are as American as any other child across the nation, in all but in the letter of the law,” they wrote. “Some never even spoke the language of their native land. They do not represent a public safety threat. In fact, they represent some of the best our nation has to offer.”

Napolitano issued the directive that created DACA during her tenure as secretary of Homeland Security. She said previously that she feared “our undocumented students may be at risk if President Trump erases President Obama’s executive policies on immigration, including DACA.”

It's not clear if Trump intends to follow through with his pledge to halt DACA or if he indeed wants to see all undocumented people, including college students who came to the United States as babies, deported. The California college leaders, arguing that children shouldn't be punished for their parents' desire to give them a better life in America, appealed to Trump's sense of decency and justice.

“DACA is rooted in the fundamental premise that no one should be punished for the actions of others,” they wrote.

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