By NORMA, DIANA, and CAROLINA
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is an executive order that was implemented by President Obama in June 2012 in response to growing immigrant youth-led organizing across the country. DACA provided a type of liminal immigration status where beneficiaries are temporarily protected from deportation and received a 2-year work permit but were not provided with a path to citizenship. Even so, when DACA first came out, this was seen as a victory for the undocumented community and it provided hope that there would be future immigration relief, not only for DACA beneficiaries, but for the broader undocumented community. In fact, with protection from deportation, a social security number, and access to advance parole, many DACA recipients were able to get a driver’s license, credit cards, better paying jobs and not only pursue their goals in higher education, but they were also able to get jobs and build careers in their respective fields (see e.g., Gonzales et al. 2016; Patler et al. 2015; Wong and Valdivia 2014).
However, under the Trump administration, not only have fears of deportation heightened within the undocumented community, but general feelings of anxiety and uncertainty associated with navigating everyday life while undocumented escalated due to an increase in anti-immigrant policies, hate crimes, and rhetoric. Furthermore, as President Trump and his administration tried to rescind DACA in September 2017, DACA has gone from a victory to a “ball and chain” for beneficiaries and the broader undocumented population. Currently, only a portion of the DACA program is in effect, and subsequently only renewals can take place but no new applicants are being accepted and advance parole is no longer available.
As of September 2019, there were 647,120 DACA beneficiaries and an estimated 800,000 young adults are currently eligible to renew. If new DACA applications become available, this would bring the total of DACA beneficiaries to 1,200,000 individuals who would benefit. As the undocumented community awaits a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court, it is important to note that regardless of the outcome, the current moment and the final decision will have vast effects on the lives of undocumented students and their loved ones before and after a decision is issued.
Therefore, it is important for the community at large, school administrators, educators, counselors and undocumented individuals with or without DACA to begin preparing for the Supreme Court’s decision on DACA. At My Undocumented Life, we have identified steps that schools and universities can take to support undocumented students in light of the pending decision on DACA. This of course is not meant to be an exhaustive list. We encourage our readers to take advantage of the comment section below to add any suggestions, resources, or links they would like to share.
SPOTLIGHT ON MENTAL HEALTH RESOURCES
Whether you are an administrator, educator, counselor, or an undocumented student, it is important to be informed about mental health resources available to become aware of the stressors facing the undocumented community, learn ways to support undocumented students, and learn coping strategies to improve your mental health.
The Thrive Center, Norma Ramirez (doctoral candidate in clinical psychology and plaintiff in the SCOTUS case regarding DACA) and Dr. Lisseth Rojas-Flores have created a webpage and resources (e.g., a podcast, guide, webinars) to foster thriving and resilience in undocumented youth with or without DACA. The guide they have created, Embracing Strengths and Vulnerabilities for Thriving and Resilience, is now available to all for download (it’s free). Additionally, for the next 5 weeks in collaboration with Fuller Theological Seminary, the Thrive Center will host weekly DACA Thriving Tuesday webinars on Facebook Live to further expand on these topics and provide more mental health resources and self-care tips for the undocumented community. Everyone is invited to join every Tuesday at 10 AM PDT starting, May 26th. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for any questions regarding this resource.
Below, we have outlined additional recommendations that can be implemented depending on your role within the school:
- Provide Generous Financial Support: Now more than ever, it is important that educational institutions provide not only full scholarships to their undocumented students but additional aid for living expenses. Undocumented students without DACA are in need of financial support as they are typically not eligible for loans, federal aid, and fellowships/TAships that require a work permit. Furthermore, if DACA is terminated, those who received funding through a work permit will no longer be supported and may face the difficult decision of taking a break from school or stepping out. This would result in a great loss for educational institutions and undocumented students. Additionally, undocumented immigrants are experiencing the even greater uncertainty through COVID-19. Therefore, be creative in changing or creating new policies to help undocumented students without a work permit.
- Here are two important resources to read: List of Colleges Providing COVID-19 Emergency Funds to Undocumented Students (My Undocumented Life)
- Creating Fellowships Programs for Educational Institutions (Immigrants Rising)
- As undocumented students including DACA recipients await a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court, university presidents can send out statements to the broader community discussing the importance of maintaining and expanding DACA, as well as identifying key sources of support available for undocumented students currently enrolled.
- Create a website designated to support undocumented students. The website should clearly identify a trustworthy point-of-contact (e.g., a center, or a current educator, counselor, or staff member actively supporting undocumented students on campus), specific resources the school is providing to undocumented students (including those with respect to their mental health, financial aid, Covid19, legal services, and emotional support).
- Create a task force dedicated to supporting undocumented students on campus. The primary goal of the task force should be to identify pressing challenges that undocumented students are currently facing, recommendations for how the school can better support students, and next steps required to implement these recommendations.
NOTE: Given the limited scope of who is currently eligible for DACA, the ongoing uncertainty that the program may one day come to end, and the fact that it does not provide a path to citizenship, we encourage schools and universities to center their support for undocumented students to those with and without DACA.
- Learn more about the undocumented experience and how systemic structures are impacting students. It is important that your students are not faced with the additional work of teaching you about their experience. Instead, help alleviate their burden by learning of the history of migration in the U.S. and how U.S intervention has propelled the need to migrate. When your students know that you are aware of their background, context, struggles, and strengths, this will make it easier for your students to connect with you. We recommend these readings on immigration.
- Be accessible, flexible, and advocate. Undocumented students are under a tremendous amount of pressure right now in light of the pending U.S. Supreme Court decision on DACA, the Covid19 pandemic, and the upcoming 2020 presidential elections. Each of these circumstances has drastically transformed students’ daily routines, responsibilities within the household, mental health, and their plans for the future. As an educator or counselor who works directly with undocumented students, it is imperative to let your students know that you are a trust-worthy, safe, and supportive person that they can reach out to for help. Support can come in various ways (e.g., mentoring, advocating, listening to students’ concerns/challenges, providing extensions on assignments, identifying local resources available to them and their families). The key here is that your students know they are not alone and that they can count on you for support.
- Identify and share mental health resources available for undocumented students at the local/national level, including those referenced above and those featured here.
- Host a virtual emotional support group among undocumented students. Waiting is often its own struggle filled with feelings of stress and anxiety. Creating support groups leading up to the day of the decision and after is essential so that undocumented students have access to a supportive environment where they can process their thoughts, emotions, and plans with fellow undocumented students.
- Prioritize your mental health. We are worthy. We matter. We are loved. Therefore, it is more than essential to take care of your needs. Take the first steps to learn healthy ways of coping. Remember that beginning and setting new rhythms takes time and effort. Be kind to yourself when you experience a set-back. And reach out to others for support.
- Remember that you are not alone. Immigrant youth-led organizations across the country continue to fight to make sure that DACA remains in place and is expanded. No one knows the exact date when the Supreme Court will issue its ruling. To stay up-to-date with the latest news & resources we recommend that you subscribe to My Undocumented Life (it’s free). We also encourage you to check out United We Dream’s post-decision virtual rally to surround yourself with fellow undocumented community members and allies the day following a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court.
- If your DACA expires in less than a year, consider submitting your DACA renewal application:
- If you need legal assistance, several organizations across the country are hosting free webinars or virtual appointments to help folks complete their DACA Renewal Applications. At My Undocumented Life, we will continue spreading the word about these events. In the meantime, if you need help identifying a resource in your city/state, please comment below!
- If you are of Mexican descent and need financial assistance to cover the $495 application fee, contact your local Mexican Consulate office. RAICES is also providing financial and legal assistance. As of this writing (May 27, 2020) they are not currently accepting applications, but we encourage you to stay up-to-date with RAICES to know if/when their application for financial assistance reopens.
- There are different ways stress shows up on our lives. Recognize the signs. We are often in survival mode and we may not recognize what we are experiencing fully. There are several ways in which we can begin to recognize our own red flags.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES & RECOMMENDATIONS:
Health Resources for Undocumented Immigrants (My Undocumented Life)
Central Coast Coalition for Undocumented Students Success has created an action plan template that schools can use to develop their own advocacy efforts to serve undocumented students.
Resources for Undocumented Immigrants & their Families During Covid19 (My Undocumented Life)
Resources for Educators/Counselors Working with Undocumented Students (My Undocumented Life)
Norma, M.A., arrived in the U.S. at the tender age of 5 years old and has been actively involved with the Latinx community and volunteered her time in the Latino/a Youth Leadership Conference for over a decade. In 2012, when DACA was implemented, she began working at an immigration non-profit. Together, these experiences cemented her desire to pursue Clinical Psychology as she witnessed the lack of mental health services available. In 2017, she joined the Dreamers Lawsuit against the current administration for unlawfully rescinding DACA. Currently, she is a PhD candidate in Clinical Psychology and will graduate with an additional Masters in Theology. @Norma_LRM
Diana has grown up undocumented for over 19 years. She graduated from San Diego State University with a Masters in Education and a Bachelors degree in business administration from Cal State San Marcos. Diana currently works with undocumented college students.
Carolina grew up undocumented in the U.S. since the age of twelve. In 2011, she created My Undocumented Life as a platform for undocumented communities to obtain up-to-date information and resources on pursuing higher education, immigration policies, and much more. Carolina recently completed her PhD in Education at Harvard. Her current research project explores the consequences of heightened immigration enforcement on undocumented immigrants and their families.
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At My Undocumented Life we provide up-to-date information and resources for undocumented immigrants and allies. We post scholarship opportunities that are open to undocumented students, strategies for navigating the educational system, information on how to apply for DACA/Advance Parole, news on DAPA, and much more. Most importantly, we want to provide a sense of community to our diverse group of readers. Learn more about our work here: “About Us“