The repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program is affecting not only the dreamers of Dixie State University, but other students and staff members as well.
Under protection of DACA, young people who illegally come into the U.S. are allowed to work and attend American schools.
On Sept. 5, the Trump administration announced it would phase out DACA in six months if Congress cannot pass a bill regarding young undocumented immigrants by then.
DACA was enacted under the Obama administration in 2012. It protects around 800,000 dreamers: immigrants who were illegally brought into the U.S. as children. Recipients were safeguarded from deportation and legally allowed to work and attend school. To be eligible for DACA, applicants had to be under the age of 16 when they immigrated, lived in the U.S. continuously since June 15, 2007, and they had to be younger than 31 when the program was enacted. DACA status lasts for two years and is renewable for a total of $495 in fees.
Around 62 dreamers attend DSU. Utah House Bill 144 allows undocumented students to receive in-state tuition if they graduated from a Utah high school or attended for at least three years. However, DACA recipients are not eligible for federal or state financial aid, which means they cannot apply for Free Application for Federal Student Aid, commonly referred to as FAFSA. Most dreamers have to work full-time jobs in order to pay for their education.
Brandon Nelson, a junior communication major from St. George, and the multicultural student council president, said he sees how the burden of possibly losing jobs or being deported affects his dreamer friends. He said there is already so much academic pressure on college students, but the risk of losing DACA only adds to the stress. Seeing his friends in these circumstances really makes him aware of the privilege he has as a U.S. citizen, he said.
“You see the insecurity and how that affects not only school life, but their personal life,” Nelson said. “You can see in their eyes the change.”
DSU alumnus Roberto Jardon came to Utah from Toluca, Mexico, when he was 5 years old. His family moved to the U.S. to find a better life outside of Mexico.
Jardon graduated from high school with a 3.9 GPA, enough to earn him a Chancellor scholarship from DSU and full-ride tuition; however, as an undocumented immigrant, he was ineligible to receive his scholarship. Luckily, due to the generosity of an anonymous donor, Jardon was awarded a private scholarship and was still able to attend school.
In light of the repeal, Jardon said the only thing he can do now is try to get people to understand the situation and care enough to call on representatives to find a solution. Nelson said this is where citizens need to step up and write to elected officials giving support and rallying to help find a solution.
“America, for all intents and purposes, is my home,” Jardon said. “I know its history, its laws, its people, its traditions. I grew up with dual immersion because of my parents, which allows me to know of Mexico, but I do not feel like I am Mexican because I cannot say I am from a land that I only have glimpses of memories from.”
Daneka Souberbielle, associate dean of student inclusiveness and director of the Multicultural Inclusion Center, said dreamers are valuable individuals in the DSU community. They are highly motivated, willing to learn, contribute to society, and bring a different points of view to classrooms, she said.
“Those students have a different cultural world view, which is rich,” Souberbielle said. “It’s the same reason why [DSU] tries really hard to have international students on campus and adult students on campus.”
She said learning that happens through peers is an important part of the higher education system. Every individual has the opportunity to be a potential teacher.
“The dreamers that we know who have overcome barriers just to get here are highly motivated,” Souberbielle said. “If we can get a ton of highly motivated students on campus who have developed grit already… that is an amazing opportunity for us to start that momentum to have those kinds of students on campus and to be able to contribute to other students that way.”
Even if DACA is phased out, dreamers will still be allowed to continue their education at DSU; however, the struggle for DACA students will become finding ways to pay for college without the legal right to work. Also, dreamers who can’t find a career even after they graduate with their degree, will lose the motivation to finish their schooling, Souberbielle said.
“These individuals kind of personify DSU in the sense that we are Trailblazers,” Nelson said. “These people are literally blazing the way forward. They’re going through the thick of things in this educational system, so they can give back to the community, give back to their families, and help move this country forward.”
In the next six months, Souberbielle sees Congress finding a solution and passing legislation to help dreamers. She hopes for Congress to go back to the foundation of why we feel America is great and remember the hard work, merit and opportunities that make up the American dream. It’s time to put the nonsense to the side and just get to work, she said. The ball is in Congress’s court.
Dreamers are willing to sacrifice to help the country, and they are those who are willing to work for the American dream, Nelson said.
“When we work at these hard things, we then open the door for greater things and greater opportunities,” Nelson said. “And just remembering that if we lock all the doors, then there’s no motivation to work. The doors don’t need to be opened, but they just need to be unlocked because the people will do the work. They’ll turn the knob and swing them open, but they can’t if the doors are locked.”