Campus / Featured / International / National / News / September 21, 2017

DACA-mented students linger in limbo

(Graphic by Michelle Dudley)

Sophomore Michel Mora does not know what will happen when her protection under DACA expires on March 30.

“No one has said anything about what will happen after March. Once March comes, we’ll see. I guess in a way it’s kind of scary not knowing what’s going to happen to you. … It’s all in the hands of the [politicians] right now,” Mora said.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program provides baseline protections  such as working permits and protection from deportation  for undocumented immigrants who entered the country before age 16.

President Donald Trump announced that the DACA program would be suspending new applications on Sept. 5.

The last renewals of DACA must be filed before Oct. 5 and are only eligible for those whose DACA will expire between now and Mar. 5. Mora misses the deadline by 25 days.

Mora is one of 19 undocumented students at Knox. According to Director of Multicultural Student Advisement Tianna Cervantez, some of these students are DACA-mented, while some are not DACA-eligible.

Cervantez is accustomed to supporting undocumented students both with and without DACA. When she began at Knox in 2010, there were fewer undocumented students and DACA did not exist. She has offered them help in supplementing tuition with work study, travelling and answering any questions they have.

“Our support is not going to change. Now, that doesn’t provide a sense of security for our students. The fact of the matter is at the end of the day, their lives are in some sense in a state of stress, because you don’t know from day to day what or how your life is going to be impacted by a group of people who seemingly don’t understand that this population of students, children, families, has never known any other home than the United States,” she said.

Cervantez held a meeting with undocumented students on Tuesday, Sept. 19 to share information and to form a support system.

After the DACA decision, President Teresa Amott sent a campus-wide email to the Knox community stating that the college would continue to support its DACA-mented students.

The Center for Intercultural Life’s page promised resources such as a Know Your Rights webinar  similar to the one co-hosted with M.E.Ch.A. in the spring  and supplemental grants to replace work study if students lose their right to work.

In an interview with TKS, Amott said that those resources will be implemented in the coming weeks as more information comes out.

“There’s no clarity yet. If it appears that there will not be a legislative remedy in the short run, we will go ahead and schedule something. But the situation is so fluid, day to day, that we would rather wait until we have at least a timeline for a timeline. We would hope to schedule that within the next few weeks,” Amott said.

Mora feels like the college could be doing more in terms of outreach, citing the invitation to Cervantez’s meeting as the only direct contact she has had with them so far.

“I feel like they could be giving a bigger support system. There’s still a lot of unanswered questions. They said they would help us with tuition, but they haven’t said exactly when. I know a lot of undocumented students on campus are currently working to pay their tuition, but after DACA expires, they will no longer have the right to work legally. … What is Knox going to do after that?” Mora said.

The resources and protections agreed upon between Amott and the Sanctuary Campus Committee last year will still be upheld. The college will still not adopt the ‘Sanctuary Campus’ label.

“On the one hand, labelling us as a “Sanctuary Campus” provides to our students and to others the outright knowledge that we’re supporting. On the other hand, this [federal] administration has shown that they are not beneath being vindictive to the cities that have labelled themselves sanctuary cities,” Cervantez said.

A member of the committee, senior Karla Medina, says they’re placing their focus on their terms and demands rather than on the label outright.

“Personally, I think if [there are] any risks in us calling ourselves a Sanctuary Campus, those are minimal in my perspective, but … we decided Winter Term it was better to push for our demands that we believe make a Sanctuary Campus here at Knox, and we’d see what would come of it,” Medina said.

For many, the situation at hand is still unclear and a lot of questions are unanswered. No legislation has been introduced or passed by Congress on the matter, so more news on DACA is still to come and Amott says the college is prepared to act accordingly when it does.

Another big uncertainty for undocumented families, according to Cervantez, is that the extensive DACA application process requires applicants to give the federal government all of their information, including their past addresses. If DACA ends, their information will still all be on file and available to the government.

“So if Congress doesn’t pass anything, what is he going to do? I guess it’s just a lot of unanswered questions at the moment. It felt like no hope whatsoever. Trump is just not giving us any type of hope at this moment,” Mora said.

The CIL is open to any questions and uncertainties students might have, including how to support other undocumented students. “I Support Dreamers” buttons are also available.

“My hope against hopes is that at some point a decision is made that either helps this decision or changes it in some capacity. In the meantime we’re going to operate with what it is. We’re going to ask who needs help renewing, what that help looks like, and answer any questions they do have,” Cervantez said.


Erika Riley, Editor-in-Chief
Erika Riley is a junior majoring in creative writing and minoring in journalism. During her sophomore year, she worked as a news editor, and during her freshman year, she worked as a layout editor. She is the winner of the 2017 Ida M. Tarbell Prize for Investigative Reporting and the recipient of First Place Front Page Layout from the Illinois Press Association in 2016. Twitter: @ej_riley

Tags:  center for intercultural life cil DACA DACA-mented students immigration undocumented immigrants undocumented students

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