Amid national debate about immigration, President Richard Brodhead has expressed support for undocumented immigrant students.

Brodhead joined more than 100 college and university presidents Monday in signing a statement calling for the United States to maintain the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program started by President Barack Obama. The program allows certain undocumented immigrants who entered the country as children to avoid deportation.

"With DACA, our students and alumni have been able to pursue opportunities in business, education, high tech and the non-profit sector," the statement reads. "They have gone to medical school, law school and graduate schools in numerous disciplines. They are actively contributing to their local communities and economies."

The statement urges other leaders in business, civic, religious and nonprofit sectors to join the signatories in their support. In addition, the signatories offer to meet with U.S. leaders to discuss the issue.

Presidents of other peer institutions—including Brown University, Stanford University and Harvard University—also signed onto the letter.

"This is both a moral imperative and a national necessity," the statement said. "America needs talent—and these students, who have been raised and educated in the United States, are already part of our national community."

Junior Elizabeth Barahona, president of Mi Gente, wrote in an email that she appreciated Brodhead's message, but that she also wanted to see the University take more action on campus. Examples she provided include not working with federal immigration officials and providing both mental health and legal support for undocumented students.

"It's nice to sign on," she wrote. "It makes a statement, but action is what we want. What is Duke doing for its students and its community?"

DACA faces possible termination by President-elect Donald Trump when he takes office in January. In response to those concerns, Barahona circulated a petition last week asking administrators to name Duke a "sanctuary campus." The petition has received more than 500 signatures so far. 

Columbia University has designated itself such a sanctuary campus, promising it would not let immigration officials on-campus without a warrant and that it would ramp up financial aid for undocumented students if needed. 

Although Duke has not committed to taking the actions listed in the petition, Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations, wrote in an email that Duke supports all students regardless of immigration status.

Duke is taking steps to address concerns from students who may be affected by future policy changes in immigration laws, he noted. 

"We will also continue our work with policymakers and others engaged in this issue to advocate for students and faculty," he wrote in his statement. "Finally, we reiterate Duke’s longstanding support for DACA and the DREAM Act as important measures that ensure the opportunity of higher education for all."