Christopher Eisgruber, Brad Smith and Maria Perales Sánchez on the steps of the Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C.

U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments on Princeton, Microsoft challenge to DACA termination

Princeton President Christopher L. Eisgruber, Princeton alumna María Perales Sánchez and Microsoft President and University Trustee Brad Smith gather on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court on Nov. 12, 2019, after attending oral arguments on challenges to the termination of the DACA program.

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments Tuesday on cases challenging the federal government’s termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, including a complaint filed by Princeton University, Microsoft and Princeton graduate María Perales Sánchez.

The November 2017 complaint — one of the first challenges to the government’s decision to end DACA — alleged that program’s termination violated both the United States Constitution and federal law. Since then, several district courts and courts of appeal have ruled that the government’s decision to rescind DACA was unlawful.

Perales Sánchez, Princeton President Christopher L. Eisgruber and Microsoft President and Princeton University Trustee Brad Smith attended the hearing on Tuesday at the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.

Speaking alongside Perales Sánchez and Smith outside the court following the hearing, Eisgruber said the justices heard arguments that focused on “the importance of the government speaking plainly and honestly and in a straight-forward way so that people could hold it accountable for the decisions that it makes, particularly when it affects thousands of people like María.”

“But the issues that bring us here today … go deeper than that,” Eisgruber said. “They are issues about the human consequences of this program and what it means for María and other DACA beneficiaries, and they are about the basic principles that this country has stood for over time — principles that encourage honest, hard-working people to make their homes here and that have made this country a beacon for freedom throughout its history.”

Princeton President Christopher L. Eisgruber, 2018 alumna María Perales Sánchez, and Microsoft President and 1981 alumnus Brad Smith attended the hearing Nov. 12 at the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.

In a Time Ideas column this week, Eisgruber and Smith explained why their institutions are fighting for DACA, writing:

“Talent, from every source and background, is the lifeblood of innovation. As the presidents of Microsoft and Princeton University, we have seen firsthand how participants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program contribute to our institutions and our country. Standing up for DACA students is not only the right thing to do morally, it is also the right thing to do competitively.”

In this video, Perales Sánchez, who graduated from Princeton in 2018, speaks about what it would mean to have a permanent solution for DACA recipients, who are also known as Dreamers.

"[A permanent resolution] would mean having control over my life, which I think is a basic human right to be able to have some kind of control over your life," said Perales Sánchez, who also spoke about the case in an article by the Baltimore Sun.

The DACA program permits undocumented students who arrived in the country as children to obtain protection from deportation, allowing them to continue their studies or work in the United States.

Princeton has been a leading voice among higher education regarding immigration issues. President Christopher L. Eisgruber joined hundreds of colleges and universities in issuing a statement supporting DACA in 2016, and he advocated for the continuation of the DACA program in an August 2017 letter to President Donald Trump. Eisgruber also urged members of Congress to pass legislation that would provide legal status for immigrants living in the United States under Temporary Protected Status.  

This spring, Eisgruber and higher education leaders across New Jersey sent a letter to the state’s Congressional delegation about the obstacles their institutions face in attracting and retaining international faculty, students and staff. Princeton also expressed concern for international students who continue to be impacted by governmental delays in approving Optional Practical Training (OPT) for employment and internships in the United States.