“I tell students to assume that they know someone who is undocumented,” said Dr. Anne J. Goldberg, professor of anthropology. She added, “It’s probably not who you expect.”
It can be easy to assume that decisions made in Washington D.C. do not directly affect our community. However, policy changes, such as the decision to discontinue the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), may immediately affect the lives of students on campus in ways that many people overlook.
The nuts and bolts of DACA, as outlined by the Department of Homeland Security, allow individuals who qualify for DACA status to be granted relative protection against deportation and a work permit for two years.
“Essentially, it is a de-prioritization of deportation by the Federal Government,” said Dr. Jay Barth, professor of politics.
Criteria for eligibility requires that individuals be physically present in the United States as of June 15, 2012; have been under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012; have come to the United States before reaching their 16th birthday; have continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007; either be currently enrolled in school, have graduated from high school, or have obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or have been honorably discharged from the Coast Guard or the Armed Forces of the United States; and have no significant misdemeanors or felonies. DACA does not provide a path to citizenship nor does it completely protect individuals from deportation.
While DACA has advanced rights for undocumented immigrants, DACA students still face significant barriers. Students that are protected under DACA are not eligible for federal financial aid or student loans, which means that, often, they must completely fund their own education.
“This puts a lot of pressure on the student,” noted sophomore Nancy Velazquez. “Many DACA students work full-time jobs while they are in school,” she added.
The cost of college places additional stress on an undocumented student’s family, which can be challenging because sometimes the student is the only member of the family that is registered with DACA. It is possible that their “siblings may be US citizens and parents may be undocumented or working with different types of visas,” said Dr. Goldberg.
Hendrix’s policies related to DACA students and undocumented immigrants provide options for institutional scholarships if a student chooses to reveal their DACA status to an admissions counselor during the application process. If the student is determined to be a higher-need student, they are usually offered some institutional aid in addition to the academic scholarship. This typically amounts to a 60 percent tuition discount, or an average of $36,094.80 per year based on the cost to attend Hendrix for 9 months during the 2017-2018 academic year.
While this institutional aid can certainly help, it is only useful in instances when students identify their status as undocumented or protected by DACA. “Often, students want to hide their status,” said Dr. Goldberg. This requirement for self-disclosure combined with the fear of identifying as undocumented can deter students from seeking the aid they could receive because they are afraid of having people know their status.
“A lot of people don’t reveal their status because they worry that it will become their identity,” said Velazquez. Undocumented students often hidden in our community, and at a college that prides itself on growing to be more diverse and inclusive, it is concerning that DACA-protected and undocumented students may not be involved in our conversations about diversity and inclusion.
The Hendrix College administration is working to welcome and provide resources for undocumented and DACA protected students. President Tsutsui wants DACA students to know that “we’re thinking about them, we want to welcome them to our community, and there is aid available.” Resources for undocumented or DACA-protected students include Hendrix administrators, such as Dr. Dionne Jackson and Dean Wiltgen, who can provide support and help students seek legal advice.
“Knowing who you can trust is a source of stress for undocumented students and DACA students. I would like DACA and undocumented students to know that there are some people on campus who are well informed about the challenges that you face and would be happy to provide support and help if needed” said Dr. Goldberg.
Additionally, it is not necessary that students reveal their citizenship status to have access to resources. All students are always welcome to speak with counseling services, for instance.
The reality is that DACA-protected and undocumented students have limited resources at Hendrix and in society because they do not have citizenship. Their status changes at the discretion of elected officials who they cannot for vote.
President Tsutsui and Velazquez both stressed the importance of contacting congressional officials and using one’s voice via voting. “Pay attention to what your representatives stand for,” said Velazquez. “They are willing to listen,” added the President.
Dr. Goldberg emphasized the value of non-DACA students awareness. “For non-immigrant students, it is important to recognize that DACA students may not be who you assume. I have been surprised by my friends’ statuses more than once! Educate yourself to be a good support and realize that no matter how close you are to someone, they may not confide in you,” she said.
With the planned discontinuation of DACA, the legal protections for DACA students could be gone if our representatives do not come to a resolution by March 6, 2018. This would mean that the progress for students protected by DACA at Hendrix (and colleges across the country) will be gone.