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The Daily Tar Heel

Undocumented students at UNC must seek off-campus legal help

Sophomore Bryant Parroquin is the Communications Assistant for the Carolina Latina/o Collaborative.
Sophomore Bryant Parroquin is the Communications Assistant for the Carolina Latina/o Collaborative.

Fran Muse, one of SLS’s attorneys, said because SLS has no immigration attorneys, they do not help undocumented students with immigration-related concerns.

“If they are full-time students at UNC paying student fees, they are absolutely able to come to our office about other matters — traffic tickets, landlords, any other legal matter,” Muse said. “We would not give them advice on their legal status in this country or advise them on any kind of immigration issue. We would refer them to an immigration attorney.”

Muse said Carolina Student Legal Services will be hosting an informational event on immigration laws for undocumented students sometime in the near future due to students’ concerns about what President-elect Donald Trump might do in office.

Ricardo Velásquez, an immigration attorney with offices in Durham and Raleigh, said Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals protects, among other groups, undocumented people who arrived in the U.S. before turning 16.

“Most of the people that are going to be at UNC are well-educated young folks that try to do all the right things and follow laws. I feel like they would probably be low priorities for immigration enforcement,” Velásquez said.

“However, most of the people that get caught up in being deported are deported for very minor things like driving without a license, or not going to a court date for a speeding ticket, or maybe drunk driving.”

Professors at UNC, such as Spanish professor Julia Mack, have been vocal about their support for undocumented students’ rights.

“The University should make it clear that we will not tolerate arrests and detention and mass deportations of our students for any reason,” Mack said.

Bryant Parroquin, a sophomore on Carolina Latina/o Collaborative staff, said many documented students are fearful of the future under a Trump presidency and what it holds for their parents.

“For me, as a Latino, I’m preparing for the worst of whatever can happen, what with my parents being undocumented and friends on campus who are also undocumented,” Parroquin said. “His election hit me hard because of my parents and what could potentially happen to them.”

The day after the election, Parroquin called his parents to ask how they were taking the election results.

“It was really hard given everything (Trump) had said about his plans to deport and separate families,” he said.

The day after the election was filled with tears and anxiety for many students, Mack said.

“I think we have moved beyond that now, because they are strong and resilient. They wouldn’t be with us if they weren’t focused, motivated, hard-working,” she said. “All of these characteristics make them capable to deal with this themselves. The support they are receiving from the community is telling them ‘You’re not alone.’”

Mack said she was surprised the U.S. is still dealing with issues such as mass deportation.

“I never thought this would be the sort of concern we would have in this country, but I suspect it won’t come to that,” she said. “I’m hoping it will not come to that. I think it would be terrible for our history and for us as a country.”

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