Diversity and Inclusion Summit panel provides information, personal stories about DACA

Ethnic Studies professor Enrique Sepulveda shares his support for DACA and undocumented students at CU and across Colorado during a rally at the UMC on Sep 5, 2017. (Jackson Barnett/CU Independent File)

The repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program is a significant setback for undocumented students at CU Boulder, administrators and students said in a panel Tuesday.

An educative session on DACA was held as part of this year’s Diversity and Inclusion Summit. Professor Violeta Chapin, who runs a clinic at the law school that assists undocumented students and community members, and David Aragon, assistant vice chancellor at the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Community Engagement, spoke about what DACA is and how its repeal will affect people. Along with Chapin and Aragon, a panel of three undocumented CU students shared personal stories about how DACA has affected them.

DACA applies to undocumented immigrants who came to the United States before the age of 16 and before June 15, 2007. It allows them to apply for a two-year stay prior to deportation along with a work permit.

Implemented in 2012 by the Obama administration, DACA was rescinded in early September by the Trump administration. Of the 800,000 DACA recipients, 17,000 live in Colorado.

DACA students are not allowed to receive federal or state financial aid, which is a significant barrier to receiving a college degree. In Colorado, the ASSET bill allows undocumented students who live in Colorado to pay in-state tuition instead of the international student rate. The ASSET program will continue to stay in place despite the DACA repeal.

Aragon said that undocumented people were, on average, six years old when they came to the U.S. and come from mixed-status families (some family members are U.S. citizens and some are not). Despite the stereotype that all undocumented people are from Mexico or Latin America, individuals come from a diverse list of countries.

He also said a range of resources are available for undocumented CU students. These include the law clinic, a student relief fund and Inspired Dreamers at CU, a club for undocumented students.

Chapin spoke about the law clinic and gave some information about the history of DACA and the DREAM Act, which has been introduced in Congress 16 times but has yet to pass. Congress has it on the table again, along with several other pieces of immigration reform legislation.

Chapin said she is not confident in the current Congress to pass immigration reform. However, she “tries to stay hopeful.”

The students on the panel talked about their personal stories and how the current political situation made them feel. The first speaker, a business student named Carlos, said that his family came from Mexico when he was one year old, and that he “feels American” regardless of his legal status. He said that because DACA gave him a social security number it allowed him to become more involved in his community and volunteer at nonprofit organizations, since he was able to undergo background checks. Furthermore, Carlos said that since the repeal of DACA he has accelerated his college career because he needs to be able to graduate before his DACA expires.

Cheyenne, another business student, came to the U.S. from China with her parents and newborn brother due to their home country’s one-child policy. The family arrived on visitor’s visas and remained in the country after they expired. Cheyenne received DACA as a junior but said that she was told to “reconsider college” by her high school counselor because she would not be able to apply for federal aid. However, she was determined to get a degree and managed to enroll at CU. She said the Inspired Dreamers club at CU helped her find a sense of community, but the current political administration makes her feel like she doesn’t deserve to be in the country. Cheyenne also said that at one point she even considered dropping out of college, but forced herself “not to let the voices get to her” and is now considering going to law school to help other undocumented people.

“Despite what Trump is saying that these countries are sending their worst people over, I think I’m pretty great,” she joked.

Edwin, a chemistry student, came to the U.S. from Mexico when he was three years old. He joked that it made him a “bad hombre.” He said that his parents were always honest with him about his undocumented status growing up, and originally didn’t even consider college an option. He said that DACA was “a glimpse of light in the darkness” and allowed him to pursue his lifelong dream of becoming a doctor. He currently goes to high schools in the community to talk to undocumented students about college and to educate high school counselors about DACA.

All the speakers encouraged the audience to educate themselves about DACA so they could teach others about it and to get involved with immigration rights on campus or in their communities.

Contact CU Independent Senior News Editor Carina Julig at carina.julig@colorado.edu.

Carina Julig

Carina Julig is managing editor of the CU Independent. A SoCal native, she is a sophomore at CU majoring in journalism and political science and minoring in space. Follow her on twitter at @CarinaJulig.

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