Universities across the country are waiting to see how president-elect Donald Trump's tenure will affect higher education.
One of his campaign promises would put the education of many students at risk, including some at William and Mary.
Presidents have the power to repeal the executive actions that their predecessors put in place, and Trump has vowed to repeal every one of President Barack Obama's executive orders, including the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Many of the people in that program are referred to as dreamers, people who came to the country as children illegally but plan to become citizens eventually.
The program was created in 2012 as a way to protect undocumented students, among other groups, from immediate deportation.
"We don't know how President-elect Trump will approach this issue, but there is concern on campus," William and Mary president Taylor Reveley said.
People protected under Obama's executive order can renew their protected status every two years. The aim of the program is to give the benefit of the doubt to children who came to the United States as children of parents who entered illegally.
Reveley and more than 300 other college presidents signed a statement in support of the program and the students who use it to attend their institutions.
Angela Banks is a William and Mary law professor and an expert in immigration law. If Trump does move to repeal Obama's executive order, she says, he could do it in a couple different ways.
"He could say, as of today, it doesn't exist," she said. "Or he could say, you have it until it expires, then you can't renew."
Banks could not recall a presidential action that would put so many students' immigration status in limbo.
She said the existing program gives many people's citizenship status the benefit of the doubt to immigration authorities, and as a result, they can start their education.
"What (it) does is give discretion," she said. "The promise of discretion could be gone."
Trump ran much of his campaign saying he intends to rid the country of illegal immigrants.
"They say they will focus on individuals with serious criminal histories, so you'd think students would be a low risk," Banks said. "You have to show you don't have that to even get (into the program.)"
If it happens, states will need to respond individually to Trump's DACA repeal, Banks said.
Virginia does not keep undocumented students from applying to schools, and those affected by the act pay in-state tuition.
The state's attorney general, Mark Herring, released a 2014 opinion saying undocumented students should pay the in-state rate. Fifteen other states and four state university systems allowed for the same as of last year.
"All that would be up to the state and its universities," Banks said. "That's a matter of the schools in the state of Virginia."
Reveley made his stance clear for the would-be affected students.
"They are important members of the William and Mary community, belong here, and should be allowed to finish their W&M educations," Reveley said. "It is important that they know we support them."
Wright can be reached at 757-345-2343.