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Wednesday May 31st

'It's been a real roller coaster': UNC attempts to help DACA recipients

<p>UNC senior Rubi Franco Quiroz speaks on Sept. 18 at the DACA in Crisis event, a panel discussion comprised of lawyers, activists and students about how to support the undocumented and DACAmented community.</p>
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UNC senior Rubi Franco Quiroz speaks on Sept. 18 at the DACA in Crisis event, a panel discussion comprised of lawyers, activists and students about how to support the undocumented and DACAmented community.

Efforts to alter or rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program halted Feb. 26 after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a case regarding the program’s legality – a move that has universities concerned.

The Trump administration announced in September 2017 it would begin phasing out the Obama-era legislation on March 5 if Congress could not find a legislative solution.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup was one of many federal judges who ruled in January that DACA could not be rescinded until legal challenges ended. The administration challenged several of these decisions and attempted to go straight to the Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case because it had not yet been heard by a federal appeals court. 

Although it is not a permanent solution, the Supreme Court’s latest move means the deadline is no longer binding and allows the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to renew the statuses of current DACA recipients.

It is estimated North Carolina has about 25,000 DACA recipients, about 3,000 of which are enrolled in college. With the future of these students uncertain, North Carolina universities are taking a look at what resources they can offer.

One of the biggest concerns undocumented students and UNC-Chapel Hill are facing is the fact that the future is so uncertain, said Allen O’Barr, director of UNC Counseling and Psychological Services.

“These uncertainties are incredibly difficult when students are trying to perform academically, take care of themselves and have personal relationships,” he said. “Stress is part of daily life, but DACA is a big stress. I can’t really compare it to anything.”

CAPS is able to offer DACA students what they offer any other student going through periods of stress, which is a brief round of therapy that can include anywhere from four to 10 sessions, access to medication and same-day evaluation.

O’Barr said although CAPS does its best to help students in-house, sometimes it has to refer them to outside professionals, either because their case requires more attention, or they ran out of brief therapy sessions.

There was talk about a graduate and professional student organization petitioning the school to allow DACA recipients expanded access to mental health services, but nothing came of it, which is not unusual, O’Barr said.

“A counseling center tries to stay out of politics because it’s our ethical and work obligation to say we are here for every student, and we will provide the same degree of service to every student,” he said.

In addition to mental health services, DACA recipients are entitled to the same services, like academic and career advising, as any other student now and if their status is overturned. On the University’s end, that is all it can offer.

The University offers resources targeted to students who may be facing additional challenges in completing their education and is looking into what it can do for DACA students, according to Elizabeth Barnum, director of the Office of International Student and Scholar Services.

She said the trouble many undocumented students may face if their status gets reversed is paying for school.

DACA allows undocumented students to get federal work permits, a Social Security number, a driver’s license and other documentation that allows them to have a job and pay taxes, which helps them finance their education. Rescinding the program could put these students at risk of deportation and losing their access to education.

DACA recipients are not eligible for federal student aid and must pay out-of-state tuition. There are some private scholarships that do not require a specific immigration status to apply, but it is not always enough, Barnum said.

“There was some hopeful news out of Washington but no legislation,” she said. “It’s been a real roller coaster.”

In a statement to the University community in September 2017, UNC Chancellor Carol Folt urged Congress to find a legislative solution and provide security for undocumented students.

Because the Supreme Court declined to act, Judge Alsup’s January ruling still stands: The program will remain in place as long as legal challenges remain unresolved. With the Trump administration’s original March 5 deadline having passed, it is unclear what the next steps for the program will be. 


Anna Pogarcic

Anna Pogarcic is the editor-in-chief of The Daily Tar Heel. She is a senior at UNC-Chapel Hill studying journalism and history major. 

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