Yale alumnus Stephen Schwarzman ’69 is a top Republican donor and a close confidante to President Donald Trump. But he is also an advocate for DACA recipients, a group of undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children.
Last month, Schwarzman signed onto a letter backed by 115 CEOs and business leaders, including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, urging Congress to pass legislation to protect DACA recipients before the government’s spending deadline. That date has since passed — causing the federal government to briefly shut down — and Congress still has yet to reach a decision. But this week, Schwarzman told the News he remains a supporter of the DACA recipients.
“These 800,000 young people who were brought here through no fault of their own have exhibited high levels of achievement and an immense capacity to contribute to our country,” Schwarzman said. “Not only is it unimaginable to ask them to leave their home after all these years, but also against our own self-interest as a nation. … My hope is that members of both parties come together to pass legislation that permanently protects these young people.”
Over the past few months, Yale has lobbied members of Congress on behalf of the DACA recipients. Vice President for Communications Eileen O’Connor said the University has “appreciated Mr. Schwarzman’s help on this issue” but declined to comment further on Schwarzman’s involvement in Yale’s lobbying efforts. She added that Yale does not comment on the specifics of its lobbying strategy.
Schwarzman — the co-founder and CEO of Blackstone, the nation’s largest private equity firm — was appointed in December 2016 to chair Trump’s Strategic and Policy Forum, an advisory group composed of American business leaders and CEOs. But the group disbanded last summer, in wake of the president’s controversial response to the violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Still, even after the group disbanded, Schwarzman has remained close to the president.
Just hours after the Senate passed its version of the controversial GOP tax bill into law last December, Trump held a $100,000-per-plate fundraiser at Schwarzman’s Park Avenue home. Schwarzman has been a vocal advocate of the law’s tax cuts, while University President Peter Salovey has argued that the tax cuts disproportionately benefit the most affluent and will contribute to the growing national debt.
Still, like Schwarzman, Salovey has not changed his stance on DACA.
As Trump wavered on whether to roll back DACA last fall, Salovey penned a letter to Trump asking him to protect DACA recipients. Last September, the White House rescinded DACA but granted Congress six months to resolve the status of the 800,000 people covered by program. Since the DACA repeal, Yale has remained a vocal advocate for legislation to protect undocumented students.
Following a shutdown earlier in January, Congress will vote before Feb. 8 on whether to fund the government. As part of the spending deal, Democrats and Republicans in Congress are negotiating on the immigration issue.
Brian Reyes ’21 said Schwarzman’s support of DACA shows there is some institutional support for the DACA recipients, but he added that “there’s always room for more.”
Vy Tran ’21 agreed that Schwarzman’s signature needs to be followed by action.
“If he’s actually adamant about [helping] young people, he should come here and come talk to people, [to] those who are affiliated with the DACA conflict or who are [DACA recipients] here,” Tran said.
In 2015, Schwarzman donated $150 million to Yale for the construction of the Schwarzman Center, which is set to open in 2020.
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