A call for undocumented student resource centers on every campus

Amid ongoing legal challenges to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, undocumented students are now graduating high school ineligible for the provisions the program provides, including work permits, access to financial aid, and protection from deportation. A total of 427,345 undocumented students attend higher education institutions as of March 2021, with only 181,624, or 42.5%, eligible for DACA, according to the Higher Ed Immigration Portal. As immigration laws change, many of these undocumented students are now unsure about where to access the information and support they need to successfully complete their degree.

Writing in The Hechinger Report, two undocumented graduate students highlight the benefits when college campuses create resource centers dedicated specifically to the needs of undocumented students. These so-called dream resource centers can provide emotional, academic, and legal services that are critical to undocumented students’ success, write Vianey Valdez, a first-generation DACA recipient pursuing her Master of Social Work degree at the University of Southern California, and Maria Fernanda Molina, a DACA recipient and a first-year master’s student at the USC Suzanne-Dworak Peck School of Social Work.

“We owe many of our accomplishments to our colleges’ dream resource centers, places we heavily relied upon for academic, emotional, and financial support,” Valedez and Molina write. “That’s why we are firm believers in the power of dream resource centers and believe that—with nearly half a million undocumented students in college—such centers should be on every campus.”

Improving the university experience

In 2019, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a law requiring all California public colleges and universities to establish a dream resource liaison for each of their campuses. Many California community colleges and public universities, including several University of California campuses, now have dream resource centers that offer undocumented students financial aid support, leadership and professional opportunities, and academic and mental health services. These centers also partner with legal teams that help undocumented students with DACA applications and renewals, citizenship applications, and family petitions.

New York City also has Immigrant Student Success centers on many of its City University of New York campuses, which offer the supportive services undocumented students need to overcome the barriers they unfortunately face when completing their education.

Saying that many undocumented students struggle to balance their academic coursework with financial needs and legal obligations, Valedez and Molina call on colleges and universities nationwide to establish their own dream resource centers to ensure undocumented students feel supported so they can participate fully in their campus experience.

“The support would improve and promote mental health; the physical spaces would serve as sanctuaries at a time of ever-changing immigration laws,” they write. “Higher education institutions need to foster a welcoming and supportive environment that improves the university experience and creates opportunities later in life for all ‘Dreamers.’”

Supporting undocumented students at Georgetown

In keeping with its commitment to the Jesuit value of cura personalis, or care of the whole person, Georgetown is committed to supporting undocumented students and the unique challenges they may face. Learn more about Georgetown’s resources and support for undocumented students at undocumented.georgetown.edu.

Topics in this story

Next Up

Tennessee commits $318M to its only public HBCU, but does that compensate for decades of underfunding?

After a report revealed that Tennessee withheld millions of dollars in funding from the state’s only public historically Black college, the state’s governor proposed giving the university $318 million. However, experts say that’s not enough.