Undocumented students work to receive education
Five organizations are collaborating to make sure undocumented students can fulfill their dream of receiving an education and having a place to work after graduation. Unauthorized immigrants, who call themselves Dreamers, aspire to see immigration reform become a reality with the help of Youth Empowerment Alliance, Hispanic Student Association, Mexican American Studies Student Organization, Neighborhood Centers Inc. and We Own the Dream.
The student groups put together the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals forum Thursday to inform and pre-screen students on whether they are eligible for deferred action. At the forum, students were able to learn more about DACA and its benefits.
“This is the first DACA clinic on campus led by immigrant youth. We are organizing this event in an effort to raise awareness about the issues undocumented Cougars face and also assist in the DACA application process those who haven’t applied,” said psychology junior and YEA President Javier Hernandez.
According to the student groups, up to 1,500 UH students may be undocumented. The forum therefore stressed the importance of student groups helping their peers get deferred action so they will be able to work in their field of study.
“This event is important because it has the potential of turning someone’s life 180 degrees. With DACA, many doors that were previously shut are opened, such as obtaining a work permit that allows the applicant to put their degree to work. However, only around 50 percent of those eligible nationwide have applied, and we want to change that,” said HSA President Ana Rodriguez.
Some students who immigrated to the United States at an early age were not aware that they were undocumented until they registered for college or applied for a job. Others may know that they are an unauthorized immigrant but are too afraid to speak.
MASSO President Karla Perez immigrated to the U.S. with her family when she was 3 years old and did not find out she was undocumented until she was in high school.
“I received deferred action last November, and since then, my life has changed in so many positive ways. Aside from being able to legally drive to school and build credit, I have found the empowerment I needed to come out to my classmates about my immigrant status. But now, I can say to anyone who will listen that I am undocumented and unafraid,” Perez said.
“I want other young Dreamers to find this empowerment as well. … This wonderful country will need our leadership for years to come, and DACA is an opportunity for us to show everyone that Dreamers have a positive impact in the United States.”
DACA is intended to encourage students to sign up for deferred action and be unafraid to speak up about their immigrant status to help bring immigration reform.
The DACA forum was a pre-screening session, but for those who wish to sign up for deferred action, a DACA clinic will be held at 11 a.m. on Nov. 9.