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Sunday, June 4, 2023


DACA students should not be attacked while trying to get education

YEA officers Vice President Maria Ivonne Trevino Rodriguez (left) and President Maria Gonzalez Trevino (right) answer student questions at a recent meeting. | Courtesy of the Youth Empowerment Alliance




When President Trump rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program on Sept. 5, he decided that your classmates can be deported.

With his decision to end the plan, there is still a chance for congress to save it. There is a six month deferral for Congress to come with a plan to fix DACA.

Since the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was created in 2012, it has benefited 787,580 young immigrants. By rescinding it, up to 983 DACA recipients would lose their protected status daily.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, officials can now arrest and deport any undocumented immigrant without protected status regardless of a criminal record. It is already happening: Non-criminal immigrant arrests doubled during Trump’s first 100 days as president.

“If you think you don’t know a DACA student, you’re wrong,” said Karla, who an undocumented technology student who requested that The Cougar withhold her last name.

She missed citizenship by birth by two months. Her father, a veterinarian, couldn’t find work in Mexico, but moved his family after finding work in the United States. They didn’t intend to stay here for long, but the economy in Mexico worsened.

Growing up, Karla knew she was undocumented and that she had to stay silent. In a two-truths-and-a-lie icebreaker, she said she once used “I’ve never been to Mexico” as one of her truths.

Karla applied for DACA status at 14. Only undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. before the age of 16 and who lived in the U.S. since 2007 are eligible for DACA protection.

“I could finally be a normal kid,” she said.

DACA enabled her to get a driver’s license, Social Security number, work permit, and enroll in college. Karla graduated at the top of her high school class and made the decision to attend college. “DACA is for the perfect immigrant,” she said.

Enrollment in the program is renewable every two years, but recipients must keep clean criminal records.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program doesn’t provide a pathway to citizenship, but people like Karla are American in every way but on paper.

“We’re just trying for a better life,” Karla said. “Since we’re already here and this is our home, why are you taking us away?”

She said her DACA status is set to expire before her graduation from UH.

“Now I have to figure out a way to make these two years that I have left valuable,” Karla said. “The only thing that they can’t take away from me is my education. As long as I get my degree, they can’t take that away from me.”

Karla is active in UH’s Youth Empowerment Alliance, too. She says undocumented young people weren’t handed the protections of DACA; they found for them.

UH President and Chancellor Renu Khator released a statement in support of DACA students, acknowledging “their crucial role in our institution’s culture and diversity.”

However, Karla says she sometimes feels invisible.

The University supports DACA students with words but not actions. Unlike other colleges, UH doesn’t provide students access to free legal advice.

“Because UH is a diverse institution, it’s important to not just know about DACA but to be informed about it and be able to be that supportive community,” said Niya Blair, the director of the Center for Diversity and Inclusion. “When something affects one of us, it can have a larger effect on us all.”

Marketing sophomore Uyiosa Elegon is a U.S. citizen who is politically active with the Youth Empowerment Alliance. He said this attack on DACA is an “unwarranted eviction of people who deserve to be here just as much as you or I do.”

“Undocumented students don’t have political representation,” Elegon said. “We are that voice. We’re the ones that are supposed to pick up that phone and call (Congress). We’re the ones that are supposed to be as loud as possible right now and make sure our friends stay here.”

Supporting undocumented students is going to take the help of everyone that it can get, especially at UH, to protect the students that are so integral to the community.

“Right now, it’s all hands on deck,” Elegon said. “This is your chance to stick by what the university already stands for.”

An attack on any member of the UH student body is an attack on us all. Now is the time to support your friends and classmates. We cannot count on Congress to act on its own. Citizens should use their privilege and pressure representatives to create protections and a path to citizenship for DACA recipients.

Opinion columnist Alyssa Foley is a public relations junior and can be reached at [email protected].

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