Written in December 2017
Efforts made by the University of Kansas are limited as they try to provide resources for students protected under the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program.
The Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) provided a website listing a financial aid guide, admissions information and other resources for those students. However, Mauricio Gomez Montoya, associate director of the OMA, said that his office, and therefore the university, can only minimally help because they can’t override federal restrictions.
“We’re still sort of figuring out what we can do because, as a state institution, we are bound to state law, and obviously to federal law, so what we can do and how we can support these students is limited to the rule of law, which is helpful to understand,” Gomez Montoya said.
The DACA program allows undocumented immigrants who came to the United States before the age of 16 to stay in the country if they work or are enrolled in school. In October, President Trump decided to end the Obama-era protection. According to the Pew Research Center, that decision ultimately impacts nearly 790,000 young undocumented immigrants who will likely face the risk of deportation once the program officially ends.
Gomez Montoya said that the fear of being deported is another factor that inhibits the University’s support for students protected by DACA because students don’t typically share their migratory status.
“The only information that KU has is what the student chooses to disclose,” Gomez Montoya said. “This is an ‘invisible identity’. You can interact with a person for years and never know their migratory status, so it makes sense for students not to disclose those things because safety is linked to that.”
Despite that restriction, there exists some reporting data that is useful in tracking undocumented students. According to the Lawrence Journal World, as of the fall semester of 2016, there were four students at the University who received tuition adjustments based on undocumented status. However, that number is fewer than other colleges in Kansas.
Although those adjustments won’t likely be present for those students once DACA officially ends, Adam Mansfield, an attorney for the University’s Legal Services for Students, said that he seeks to explore other options.
“I’ve seen statistics that say a fairly large percentage of people that have received DACA may actually qualify for a different type of immigration benefit. They may have a parent that was a U.S. citizen and wasn’t aware of it. They may have suffered violence as a child and fit under some immigration categories that give lawful permanent resident status to people that have suffered abuse as children, so that’s the first thing that I look at,” Mansfield said.
However, Marta Caminero-Santangelo, director for the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, said that efforts should focus on undocumented students in general because DACA doesn’t include everybody.
“You have to meet certain criteria, and those criteria include educational criteria and they include when did your family get here and how long have you been here,” Caminero-Santangelo said.
According to The Guardian, the criteria for undocumented immigrants being protected under DACA include students or those who have completed school, being involved in the military, and having no criminal history.
Caminero-Santangelo also said she thinks that the University could be moving more quickly in their limited efforts in terms of supporting all undocumented students, and not those just protected by DACA.
“One of the things that I think we need is training because we need to train our faculty and our staff and our students about how we best support our undocumented students and how we include them as part of the KU community and how we learn not to be stupid and insensitive in the things that we say,” Caminero-Santangelo said.
The Trump administration has given Congress until March 2018 to come up with an alternative to DACA before the program ends.
“The biggest effect that this will have on these students is psychological. You’re going from a position where you were in a program and were told that you wouldn’t be deported. Now, that’s gone, so you have to worry about that,” Mansfield said.