In an attempt to better inform undocumented and DACA-mented students of how to respond in the event of encountering immigration law enforcement, M.E.Ch.A and Lo Nuestro co-sponsored a Know Your Rights workshop last Wednesday.
The workshop was held for the second time this year, after hosting the first panel in March to address issues of immigration laws, DACA and sanctuary campuses.
Since Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a program that provides baseline protections for undocumented students, was suspended Sept. 5, the workshop was used to address the anxieties and concerns DACA-mented and undocumented students might have.
“[We] wanted to provide another opportunity for students who have an interest or concern or are looking for information for friends and family members about what that decision [to repeal DACA] actually means,” Director for Intercultural Life Tianna Cervantez said.
The workshop featured a returning panelist, Tejas Shah, Immigration Counsel at the law firm Franczek Radelet P.C., and was hosted by Cervantez and Vice President for Student Development Anne Ehrlich.
Shah, who was skyped in for the workshop, presented an extensive PowerPoint with generalized legal advice and alternative routes undocumented students who missed the cut-off date for DACA could explore.
“It is important to remember that hope is not lost and there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” Shah said. “Think about who you can get on your team, and ask them to make calls [to their representatives] on your behalf. The solution [to immigration reform] is going to be a legislative solution.”
Although he was unable to give specific legal advice for what each individual student should do, Shah presented on a range of topics, including immigration relief for DACA recipients, temporary visas, changes of status and questions students could ask during a legal consultation with their lawyer.
Co-President of M.E.Ch.A senior Karla Medina mentioned that the information provided by the workshop was extremely helpful to students and brought up possible alternatives they had not previously known about.
“It might have been general [legal advice], but there was a lot of information that I had never even thought about, [such as] options for immigration,” Medina said. “We requested that he talk about the immigration ban and new additions to the ban, so we were getting information not only from a media perspective, but from a legal perspective as well.”
Medina mentioned that the workshop was very successful in giving DACA-mented and undocumented students an idea of what the next step should be and in quelling some of the anxieties they were having since the repeal of DACA.
“We worked on these demands since the time when Trump had just been elected and he was very strong about ending DACA back then, so we wanted to quell the anxieties students had that weren’t being addressed,” Medina said. “It’s even more relevant now because DACA has ended and this is information people need now to do whatever they might need to do to take care of themselves.”
Cervantez explained that Knox students can help their DACA-mented and undocumented peers by calling their representatives, because the only way immigration reform will happen is through legislation.
“This hits us personally Ñ they are our students. We say we are one community; Knox is one community. I think that if that is where our ethos lies, then we would support our students and make those phone calls,” Cervantez said. “It’s only fair, it’s only right, in my mind, to say that we need comprehensive immigration reform and a way for our undocumented youth to stay here without consequence and repercussion.”