For José Cisneros, a UNC alum and Somos Carolina Program Manager at LatinxEd, it became second nature to be cautious in day to day life, he said.
“You got to be careful because you never know when it could happen to you,” Cisneros said.
College as a DACA recipient
Guest speakers Chavero Arellano and Cisneros said they were able to attend college as DACA recipients — but it was not easy. They didn’t qualify for in-state tuition in North Carolina because of their status. Both said they worked hard in high school and became a part of a program called Golden Door Scholars that made it financially possible to attend college.
“I was blessed to have such a good support system and such a great community that can help me find the resources I needed, albeit they were very limited, but they were very resourceful nonetheless,” Chavero Arellano said.
Cisneros also said he was lucky to have a great support system despite the limited amount of resources he had access to as a DACA recipient. He said he remembers finding out about the scholarship that would eventually put him through college the week it was due.
“My dad rushed me to the public library, and I was there for like four hours just finishing editing my essay and then submitted it the day of the deadline, and it was very stressful because I felt like that was my only chance,” Cisneros said.
Chavero Arellano said though he worked hard to make it to Duke, an immigrant shouldn’t have to go to college to deserve to be in the country.
“That's a very toxic narrative that I really want to point out is not true, not valid because we have hardworking people that probably don't make it to great schools like Duke or UNC, but that still deserve to be here,” Chavero Arellano said.
Both Chavero Arellano and Cisneros said they were grateful for the DACA program as recipients, but agreed that it’s not enough to fix the problems with the immigration system in the United States.
“(DACA) is not by any means a solution," Chavero Arellano said. "It is a Band-Aid for a much bigger problem that we face.”
Next steps for UNC
The event then focused on things that could be implemented at UNC to better support undocumented students.
UndocuCarolina was highlighted as one organization that students could join. It is a group that provides scholarships, offers mentorship to high school students, holds discussions on immigration issues and hosts ally training that educates staff and students.
Todd Ramón Ochoa, chairperson of the DACA and Undocumented Resource Team at UNC, said that the University takes its responsibility to undocumented students seriously. There is a DACA and Undocumented Resource Team of faculty, staff and students at UNC to help students, UNC Media Relations said in an email.
The team is responsible for helping UNC assist students and employees who are undocumented or DACA recipients, organizing training and creating strategies to help with financial, legal and employment problems.
In addition to this, event organizers said they want UNC to
- Advocate for providing assistance for DACA renewals
- Assign legal referrals for protection
- Have advisers who specialize in DACA and undocumented students
- And provide academic workshops for high school students.
“Student organizing is vital piece of this process, leading to the creation of the DACA and Undocumented Resource Team and UndocuCarolina since 2017,” Ochoa said in a statement. “While the ground is always shifting under our DACA and undocumented Tar Heels, their ideas will orient us and help us move forward.”