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Undocumented students teach faculty about DACA program

Students and residents of Champaign-Urbana gather at the Willard Airport in Champaign on Jan. 29th.
Students and residents of Champaign-Urbana gather at the Willard Airport in Champaign on Jan. 29th.

Students and residents of Champaign-Urbana gather at the Willard Airport in Champaign on Jan. 29th.

Brian Bauer

Brian Bauer

Students and residents of Champaign-Urbana gather at the Willard Airport in Champaign on Jan. 29th.

Brooke Eberle, Staff writer

For Nancy Ramirez, being an undocumented student isn’t easy.

Ramirez was born in Mexico City and moved to Illinois when she was one years old. She, like many on campus, currently has DACA status, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, and faces many obstacles because of it.

To better inform people about this, the Women’s Resources center will be holding an Undocumented Student Ally training for all University staff and faculty on Friday. The training will be about three hours long and was developed by both La Casa Cultural Latina and I-CAUSE.

“The main idea is to better support students who are undocumented on campus,” said Jorge Mena Robles, assistant director of La Casa.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals was developed under former-President Obama to allow students who came to the country under the age of 16 to get an education. Undocumented students need to apply for DACA every two years and pay $465 each year, plus legal expenses, Ramirez said.

Ramirez also explained how being a DACA student on campus can be difficult.

“We started it because we were all undocumented had a lot of administrative problems,” Ramirez said. “We used to be charged for out-of-state tuition, or we were screened for different vaccinations at McKinley because, in the system, we are listed as international students even though we’ve lived in Illinois for most of our lives.”

Ramirez also said proving residency to the University was not an easy task.

“We needed to explain that we were Illinois residents and graduated from Illinois schools so we deserve in-state tuition,” Ramirez said. “They also requested a lot of private documents to prove residency, so all of us were getting emails to bring in our high school diploma or Visa or permanent resident card.”

In the end, Ramirez said, many undocumented students were left with a sense of confusion about what to provide. She said there was a lack of communication from the administration regarding what requirements need to be met.

Mel Cardoso, graduate student in Social Work, will be one of the trainers along with Ramirez. Cardoso is also an undocumented student and is originally from Sao Paulo, Brazil. She, like many undocumented students, has a passion for immigration reform.

“I became a member of I-CAUSE because I attended one social event in the beginning of the year that La Casa hosted called La Paleta Social and I started talking to people and asked how I could get involved,” Cardoso said.

Cardoso also said the training is important to break down stereotypes in the classroom.

“As a DACA student, I often find myself explaining what DACA even means,” Cardoso said. “Most people have never heard of it. I think education is truly significant to combat the stereotypes that exist. It is important to open people’s minds so when they express opinions, they are doing it using accurate facts.”

Overall, Cardoso feels that educating people on the issue is the best way to fix it, which is why she is helping with the student ally training.

“I have come across people that barely understand how the immigration system works, legal or illegal, and I feel like it is one of my duties to share my story so they can begin to imagine it,” Cardoso said.

Megan Flowers, communications director at the University YMCA, attended the first training session last year.

She explained how one student shared how she wanted to study abroad and applied for parole. She later decided not to go on the trip because she found out that if she left the country, she had no guarantee that she would get back in.

Flowers also shared many of the programs that the YMCA on campus offers for undocumented students.

“We are in the process of becoming accredited in order to give legal advice on immigration law so that we can begin to work with students from other organizations like La Casa,” Flowers said.

Ramirez said it is important for faculty and staff members to become educated on the needs of undocumented students, because every student at the University has value. She said professors need to be aware that students look to them as a resource.

“Sometimes we can’t afford books or have trouble understanding material. To go to a professor and say that I am undocumented, I just don’t want to be judged,” Ramirez said.

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