Local groups unite to stand up for DACA students

Hundreds of college and university leaders have mobilized in recent days to defend students who immigrated to the United States as children, without legal permission. They are giving a voice to the undocumented students and are pledging to resist President-elect Donald Trump’s push to apprehend and deport members of their communities and end the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program.

Kansas and Missouri educators and community leaders came together for an emergency meeting early last week at the Hispanic Development Fund’s office in downtown Kansas City, Missouri to discuss how they will stand against Trump’s plan.

Janet Murguia, president and CEO of the National Council of La Raza, (NCLR) released a statement, “Latinos are present and engaged with NCLR. We will come together to fight for our collective voice and for what’s right. Our families are being challenged by those who fear the nation’s growing diversity, or simply don’t know who we are. What is at risk is the seven million Latinos who are in danger of losing their health insurance and 750,000 Dreamers, their families and the millions of others threatened by deportation. It’s only in unity that we can thrive. Together we will protect the democratic values that are at the core of what makes this nation great: diversity, tolerance, inclusion and justice for all.”

The fear of a possible change in policy has placed many students in a state of suspended animation. Some reports have alleged a connection between those fears and an increase in suicides among those possibly affected by the proposed changes.

Cristina Jasso spoke about those suicides and the questions students in area schools are asking.

“We have students in the classroom asking us what will happen to them or their family members. They are scared and they need to know that we can help them, but I don’t know what the answer is right now for them,” she said.

Luis Cordoba, an official with the Kansas City Public Schools said, “we are seeing the psychological and emotional distress of students in our schools. We need to create more social and emotional support for the kids. I would like to talk with the Guadalupe Center to see how we can support these needs — we have US born students who have undocumented parents and they fear that their parents will be deported,” he said.

Angel Cabrera, president of George Mason University told Washington Post reporter Nick Anderson, “The Mason DACA community includes some of our most accomplished students. They have excelled both inside and outside of the classroom. We hope that the new administration recognizes the value of these students to our community and to our nation.”

In the same interview, Wallace Loh, president of the University of Maryland at College Park said, “I have a strong and unequivocal personal commitment to protect all of our students, including those who attend our university under the Dream Act and DACA. … The job of any president is to provide an education for every student and I will be working with my colleagues on how we can best protect the legal standing of these outstanding students and let them continue with their transformative education.”

John Coatsworth, Columbia University provost, added, “Columbia will neither allow immigration officials on our campuses without a warrant, nor share information on the immigration status of undocumented students with those officials unless required by subpoena or court order or authorized by a student.”

The Kansas City Immigrant Right Coalition put together a letter that they asked people in attendance to sign.

The letter said, “Welcoming immigrants and refugees has enriched and strengthened our nation. Yet the 2016 presidential campaign exposed deep social, economic, and racial divisions in our country. The outcome has left many immigrants and refugees, including those who are second and third generation, living with uncertainty and fear. Among other concerns, the prospect of deportation and family separation looms large, while hate-based incidents and violence against those perceived as ‘other’ continue to rise at an alarming rate. In the face of these challenges, the Kansas City Immigrant Rights Coalition (KCIRC) stands firmly with the 135,000 immigrants and refugees residing in our community and the organizations that serve them.”

Kansas City attorney Raymond Rico told the audience that Trump could begin implementing his undocumented immigrant programs on day one or within the first one hundred days in office.

“The worst case scenario would be if an executive order ending DACA happened on the first day or within the first 100 days; the federal government has the names and addresses of our DACA students. We could see that information shared with ICE to determine if certain DACA students would be considered priority enforcement. Trump has supported stop and frisk, so we could see on the state and local level, police asking for immigration status during all lawful stops,” said Rico.

He also added that at this time the federal government does not have the resources to knock on the doors of 750,000 DACA holders.
Marie-Aimee Abizera, ED of Missouri Immigrant and Refugee Advocates (MIRA) said, “we need to educate our legislature what it is to be an immigrant and a refugee from a refugee camp. It is a lot of education we need to do in Missouri this coming legislature, but also, be willing to stand up for those without a voice.”

The Hispanic Development Fund has planned to hold another strategy session on Thursday, December 1, 2016 at the Guadalupe Centers from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. For additional information and to RSVP for the session, call 816-268-3289 or email info@hdfkc.org.