By Emily S. Tai
As CUNY’s Citizenship Now continues to offer information sessions across the City University of New York, the fate of thousands of student dreamers—that is, students brought as minors to the United States by undocumented parents, and therefor eligible for protection under proposed Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors, or DREAM legislation— hangs in the balance. On March 5, President Trump’s deadline for eligible individuals to file for renewals under the expiring program for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, came and went. Now, an estimated 700,000 Dreamers—nearly half of them college students—are hostage to a heated political debate, as President Trump, members of the United States Congress, and judges of state and federal courts review their status and argue over next steps.
DACA and College Enrollment
Across the US, concern for undocumented students united college faculty and administrators prior to Trump’s administration. At CUNY, ten college presidents signed a statement appealing to the President-elect to maintain DACA, while, as reported in the UFS Blog, hundreds of faculty mobilized expertise and resources to assist their students. One year later, concerns run high that the elimination of DACA could inaugurate a wave of deportations, and fear among college DREAMers, with implications for student enrollment–particularly at the nation’s community colleges, where students often pay affordable tuition with money earned through the legal employment they are able to obtain as DACA beneficiaries.
In February, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services eliminated the phrase “nation of immigrants” from its mission statement. Such an editorial change should give pause, not only to CUNY’s many immigrant students—documented and undocumented—but to CUNY’s many alumni and faculty, who either came to this country as immigrants themselves, or can trace their family tree to an immigrant, often a parent or grandparent they remember. Immigrants, it has been argued, enrich United States culture, and contribute to our country’s high level of artistic and scientific innovation. For over a century, the City University has played a critical role in welcoming these innovators from regions and countries as diverse as Greece, Italy, Korea, and South Asia—while CUNY’s Center for Urban Research has offered cutting-edge studies of what immigration has brought to America.
As these uncertain times continue to threaten our students, the City University of New York has established a resource page for students with questions about DACA status. The CUNY Central Office of Student Affairs, led by Interim Vice-Chancellor Christopher Rosa, also maintains the CUNY Dreamers Hub, as a source of support for students, complete with information about special scholarships for which students may be eligible. Undocumented students have also received legal advise at CUNY’s School of Law, and can be referred to information websites established at community and senior colleges.
Faculty with additional information or posts about resources for undocumented students are invited to send them to the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Emily S. Tai is an associate professor of History at Queensborough Community College and a member of the UFS Executive Committee who edits the UFS Blog.
The UFS Blog is a forum for CUNY Faculty, and welcomes the expression of all points of view.
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Photo: Citizenship Now, CUNY