How Can Colleges Support DACA Students?
Due to the unrest prevalent throughout the country in recent years, immigrants and their families need support now more than ever. Despite all the resistance faced by immigrant families, some immigrant youth like the DACA students have leveraged higher education to move forward. Leonor L. Wangensteen states that higher educational institutions have remarkable power to be dependable sources of information, comfort, and steadiness to these students and their families. So, how can these institutions start or continue to show their support?
Creating an Inclusive Campus for the DACA Students
A 2015 survey covering 900+ students found being “undocufriendly” a significant influencer for students when applying to a college. Colleges should create an inclusive campus steeped in diverse cultures to openly recognize and welcome undocumented students. They should enact diversity and inclusion-focused practices, policies, and training for campus staff, faculty, and students. colleges should choose a midway between sustaining their institutional beliefs and complete diversity.
Building “Safe Spaces”
Colleges should set up protected spaces throughout campus for the undocumented and their buddies to meet comfortably and without threat, thus encouraging a sense of community. These spaces could be students’ centers or dorms, online, or even simple resting spots like a couch, says Gaby Pacheco.
Create a Network on Campus
Creating such a network of people who’ll work directly with undocumented students is essential to support the DACA students. This network should have adequate visibility throughout the campus and include individuals who will connect undocumented students with the influential ones on campus. These individuals will also watch out for new trends or information, talk to the undocumented students, listen to their stories, and compile their feedback and opinions. Stories of these undocumented students will stand testimony to their contribution to campus life and their country.
Set Up Resources and Outreach Programs
To help undocumented students, institutions can build a stand-alone center, like UC Davis and their Campus Diversity and Division of Student Affairs, or find methods to alter and expand their existing programs. They should also train their faculty and staff to make them more well-informed about ways they can assist undocumented students.
Since several undocumented students are unaware of the campus services accessible to them, colleges should clarify that resources like scholarships are open to all, irrespective of their status. Institutions should also connect these students with groups, people, and programs that can help them apply for these scholarships and find other financial aids. Colleges should use their extensive network to put these students in touch with those specializing in immigration law and rights. These professionals can ensure that these students and their families stay updated on the existing state of immigration policy and are aware of the legal support available to them.
Despite investing time for and having the dedication to higher education, undocumented students struggle with career-building due to their undocumented status. Colleges should step in to help these students via career programs or connect them with related organizations.
Colleges should also support these students’ mental health through resources and outreach, as they often get anxious due to legal, socioeconomic, and cultural stressors and may feel lonely or even suffer from depression.
Colleges must stay on top of immigration policies and have in-house policies to protect undocumented students if ICE gets involved, including maintaining student confidentiality and support if an instant threat of deportation exists.
Undocumented students are the result of a conflict between idealism and policy. Higher education institutions can be safe havens for these students and let them show their talents. They can also empower these students with appropriate tools and confidence to participate in American society and acquire equal status.