With the possible cancellation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Dreamers program, an estimated 800,000 dreamers are at risk of being deported. In September, the Trump administration announced it was rescinding DACA pending a six-month delay. Until Congress passes a law to grant these citizens legal status, they could soon be subject to deportation. That ambiguity has instilled fear among over 40 disclosed undocumented students on this campus.
According to Syreeta Greene, Director of Equity, Inclusion and Multicultural Affairs, after the decision was made to repeal the program at the federal level, the university immediately met with students to identify resources and answer questions.
“Prior to the decision made at the federal level, there wasn’t much regular contact with these students. They were living life as any other student, trying to be a student and be successful. Since that decision we had some immediate contact and tried to identify some resources, answer some questions and that went fairly well,” Greene said.
Although there isn’t much the school can do as these students fate is not in their hands, they are adamant in supporting these students and tying them to any legal or immigration services when and if necessary.
“There’s not much that we can do because that would be at the federal level, but certainly whatever resources that we can provide students with on how to respond or if there are legal immigration services available, we will certainly tie students to that, but I don’t know if there’s much that the university can do but support the students and help them complete their education,” Greene said.
Keith Lamb, Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, said news that DACA may be ending caused a lot of anxiety among students which could possibly affect their focus with school.
“From our standpoint, we understand there is a lot of anxiety with DACA ending, and that can affect a student or an individual in a number of ways. Not only from anxiety, but their focus on school and every part of their being. For the university, our goal was to find out how we can support them,” Lamb said.
According to Lamb, 46 students have disclosed to the university they are undocumented, but there are probably more students that haven’t disclosed they are.
“Unless they disclose to us, we don’t know how many students are undocumented. We do know we have 46 students that have disclosed to us that they are undocumented, but that is not something that is asked by state institutions, and it’s not something that is necessarily tracked. There are probably a number of students that have not disclosed that,” Lamb said.
The DACA program was instituted by former President Barack Obama after Congress failed to pass the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors act, which would have created a path to citizenship for some brought to the United States as children. While DACA was always supposed to be temporary, the ultimate outcome was meant to be legal status for its recipients, not deportation.
Lamb expressed that although there are a few students affected by the possible end of DACA, it has an effect on the larger community.
“It has an effect on the larger community in a couple of ways. These individuals are members of our community and they have made relationships with friends, family members, organizations that they are involved in and they can also be affected by this,” Lamb said. “There are a number of people that could be affected by this, obviously not as intimately as the person themselves, but they could still be affected.”
Students have been affected by external forces and challenges this fall which all seemed to occur around the same time. With hurricanes, earthquakes, and DACA’s possible cancellation, students seem to express anxiety, according to Lamb.
“There were a number of challenges this fall with external forces that affected our students and they all seemed to happen at the same time. We had Hurricane Harvey which affected some of our students from the Houston area. We had Hurricane Irma and Maria which affected some of our students from the Caribbean,” Lamb said “So we have all these populations that already had some anxiety in them and then we have DACA on top of it which adds another layer to some of the anxieties going on within the student body and it’s just been very interesting how all of this has hit kind of at the same time, so it’s just one more layer of anxiety from an external force that has been thrust upon our student body.”
Though it is against the university’s policy to release these students names and efforts to reach students who were affected were futile, a friend of an affected student, was willing to share their views on the issue through their friend’s eyes.
Accounting senior Kenicia Selkridge said the biggest fear her friend has is losing everything and not knowing what the future holds.
“My friend has expressed to me that if she didn’t have DACA, she wouldn’t be able to pursue an education or find employment which is her sole purpose of being here. With the possibility of the program ending it’s stressful to wonder whether or not she will be able to finish school and get her degree,” Selkridge said. “I mean, to come here as a mere child wasn’t a decision these people made for themselves. It just really breaks my heart to see people who are dedicated to make a difference in the world have that opportunity snatched away from them.”
The uncertainty of the situation is at times too much to bear, but students are encouraged to remain hopeful through it all as the university intends to be responsive and supportive of all students, whether there are two or 200 affected.
“I think whether we have a handful of students or a large number of students affected they are still our students. Any student impacted by both internal and external forces is of importance to us and that was demonstrated from the various hurricanes and earthquakes that have taken place,” Greene said. “So we have the natural disasters, as well as legislation and different things that impact our students on a daily basis. It’s of importance for us to be responsive and supportive of all our students, regardless if there is two who are impacted or 200. I just want them to remain hopeful and focused on school.”
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