Case Study

Boston area faculty arrested in protest supporting DACA recipients

Photo credit: Tim O’Meara/The Harvard Crimson


In 2017, the Trump Administration announced a plan to rescind the protections for undocumented young people afforded by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. In protest, on September 7 a group of professors engaged in an act of civil disobedience, forming a human chain and blocking traffic on Cambridge’s Massachusetts Avenue. Thirty-one professors from Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Babson College, and the University of Massachusetts-Boston were arrested. One participant, Harvard Divinity School Professor Ahmed Ragab, was arrested just hours after being naturalized as a U.S. citizen. Several of the arrested Harvard professors also helped form an activist coalition known as the Harvard Community Organized for Immigration Action (HCOIA), comprised of students, faculty, and staff. Faculty from the group whose scholarship focuses on immigration have offered their expertise to advise administrators on immigration-related policies and procedures. 

PEN America Analysis

This protest is an excellent example of how free speech can be used to uphold inclusion. The professors engaged in a protest that not only spoke out against a policy they found unjust, but also demonstrated their support to undocumented community members and the student body at large. The Harvard faculty who formed HCOIA can potentially play a pivotal role in enacting policies that ensure the safety and security of all students, regardless of their immigration status.