The recent decision by President Donald Trump to phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — or DACA, as it’s commonly called — have left schools like Lehman College taking a proactive stance as it works to support students.
The term “Dreamers” refers to immigrants who would have been covered if Congress had passed the DREAM Act in 2001, or in any successive years it’s come up.
Although Lehman doesn’t have specifics on the number of students affected by the DACA plans, there are 42,000 people in the state who are part of the program, designed to protect children of undocumented immigrants working to establish a productive life in the United States.
Alyshia Galvez, professor and director of the Jaime Lucero Mexican Studies Institute at Lehman, said the decision to phase out DACA was something people in the program knew was coming.
“It was devastating to hear out loud, but I don’t think anyone was surprised,” she said.
In her larger classes, students spend a lot of time taking moments to pause and reflect, discussing how the decision could impact their friends and classmates.
Although existing DACA students likely know the steps they need to take if the program does come to an end, Galvez says there are some still learning what they need to do.
“I’ve noticed a lot of students don’t know what DACA is, many of them are immigrants themselves,” she said. “They have other experiences, and they don’t know what DACA means even to their classmates. DACA is an education process, and we can’t take that for granted. There is still a lot of information that needs to be transmitted.“
Suzette Ramsundar, Lehman’s associate director of campus life, says the school has worked closely with the Dream Team Club — a group that supports undocumented students at the school.
“They are sharing relevant ways to support our students who are DACA recipients,” she said.
The biggest concern is helping DACA members renew their applications and pay fees that climb over $450.
“We want our students to know there are scholarships for processing their applications, and free legal services available and connect them to these resources,” Ramsundar said.
On Monday, Lehman held a panel called “Using the Law to Fight for DACA.” The discussion included members of the Lehman Dream Team, a state assistant attorney, and a lawyer with CUNY Citizenship Now.
Citizenship Now provides free and confidential legal services to help individuals and families on their path to citizenship.
On top of that, last week, the school’s student affairs office hosted a “DACA Debrief,” a private meeting where students would share concerns, ask questions and receive information in a confidential setting.
“I think before DACA and when DACA happened, initially there was a sort of flurry of programs (and) new activity on the part of higher ed institutions to serve undocumented students,” Galvez said, adding that the program changes will require colleges and universities “think creatively about how to support our students.”