DACA, Dreamer, and Undocumented: Supporting our Students

Last Tuesday, I organized campus events to help prepare my University to work more effectively with students adversely affected by President Donald Trump's stepped up deportation orders. Like most universities, we have students who are Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients. These students wonder if their DACA statuses will be renewed so that they can finish college. They also worry about whether they will be able to stay in the country they have called home for 10-to-20 years upon graduation.

We also have an unknown number of students who are US citizens but family members of theirs are not. They worry that a parent or parents will no longer be at home when they return from school. Their family members might be picked up by ICE. Will our students have to move to a country they do not know in order to keep their families together? Will they have to drop out of school to get a job in order to pay their bills? How will they respond to having to take care of siblings once a parent is deported?

Over the next few weeks, my colleagues and I will work to devise a number of ways in which faculty, staff, and administrators from the University can assist our students through these troubling times. I was really impressed with the concern that senior level administrators had for these students. It's not often that representatives from the president, provost, and deans' offices accept invitations to faculty-organized evening events. There is high level support for these initiatives.

For now, there are a few steps we can take that seem to be rather simple.

First, identify a point person on campus, preferably someone in the University counsel office, who will respond to questions from immigration authorities about the whereabouts of our students. They will be in the best position to determine whether the request is a legal order to which we must comply. Two months ago, I didn't believe that immigration authorities would pursue undocumented immigrants at schools throughout the country. However, that does not seem to be the case.

Second, make DACA students and students of mixed legal status families aware of counselors, staff, and faculty who are ready to speak with them about the challenges they are now confronting. These people can act as advocates for students who are unfamiliar with University bureaucracy. Do they require counseling, financial, academic, or legal assistance? We might be able to help them find the support that they need. It turns out that we have an immigration attorney who visits campus each month. We are now trying to arrange a meeting between the attorney and our students.

Third, organize a response team to assist students and families who are caught up in some legal predicament. Universities might already have policies to assist students when a parent dies or when they lose their belongings in a house fire or flood. You might not need to reinvent the wheel. In other ways, the response is unique. As we saw with Daniela Vargas, a coordinated public response can help individuals caught up in immigration proceedings.

There are a number of other ways in which we can assist our students but you should be able to make some progress on these three before the end of the semester.