North Texas Daily

Resource center for undocumented students falls short of some’s expectations

Resource center for undocumented students falls short of some’s expectations

Resource center for undocumented students falls short of some’s expectations
February 04
09:00 2022

After being declared open at the end of last year, the Eagle Dreamers Resource Center has proved difficult to access for some students and faculty.

The center is meant to provide students in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program or with otherwise undocumented status a safe space to seek resources through the University of North Texas. The Division of Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access celebrated the launch of the center on Nov. 4, 2021. Following the event, no public updates on the center have been provided.

“The timing [to open the resource center] is really awkward and the seeming silence related to it is very, very awkward,” said Mariela “Profe” Nuñez-Janes, an associate professor in the anthropology department and member of the Eagle Dreamers Allies. “It was a surprise to me that there was an announcement about the Eagle Dreamer Resource Center because I had expected that the announcement would be made with the actual opening of the Multicultural Center.”

Currently housed in the Union, the Multicultural Center plans to relocate to a stand-alone building, where the EDRC will have a proper physical space, Nuñez-Janes said. The center currently shares the same office space as the Latinx Student Services Coordinator Marcos Villarreal, who also serves as the coordinator for the resource center.

“It’s physically [non-existent], but it’s there conceptually — virtually in that it is the role of the Latinx coordinator at the MC to coordinate the resources,” Nuñez-Janes said.

Fabiana Lazo, an undocumented student double majoring in political science and Latina/o and Mexican-American studies, was unable to attend the opening in November. She envisioned a center that was fully staffed and would give her access to greater resources. After contacting Villarreal by email to plan her visit to the EDRC, Lazo was surprised to discover it was just the coordinator’s office.

“It makes sense because they’re barely opening in it, but I was actually bummed out that it was just a little office,” Lazo said. “I was thankful they at least want to open up a dreamer resource center.”

Before creating the resource center, UNT created a DACA resources page on the IDEA website, which can be found at UNT, government and community resources are listed alongside statements from UNT President Neal Smatresk and Provost Jennifer Evans-Cowley. Although the resource guide is updated as of Jan. 5, the EDRC is not mentioned on the page and the list of Eagle Dreamer Allies only reflects the program’s initial inaugural training.

Nuñez-Janes said because UNT is a Hispanic-Serving Institution and the majority of undocumented students tend to be Latinx, it would make sense to prominently display the EDRC and Dreamers resources guide. Disclosing one’s legal status is sensitive information and students should not need to do that if they are searching for resources, said Oscar Silva, economics major and Eagle Dreamers president.

“The university should be concerned that students are not finding these resources, as I am concerned students are not finding these resources,” Nuñez-Janes said. “Particularly now that DACA continues to be in limbo and it’s likely that we’re gonna have incoming students who are not [under DACA]. Without the availability of new DACA applications, then we have students who have no protection from deportation.”

When Federal Judge Andrew Hanon ruled DACA to be illegal on July 16, 2021, it affected all new applications. If an applicant did not already have DACA before the ruling, their application is currently frozen until a new ruling allows the Department of Homeland Security to accept new applicants.

Silva is one of those applicants currently in limbo from the ruling. He was supposed to graduate this spring and expected to have received DACA by then to start working but added another minor to his degree plan to buy himself time.

“Hopefully by 2023, Congress has changed, passed something or maybe the ruling has been changed,” Silva said. “That’s my plan. [I’m] just banking on that Congress acts. It’s really sad that I’m just waiting, [but] who knows what’s going to happen.”

The EDRC is currently speaking with partners and stakeholders on and off campus and is in search of donations to start a foundation, Villarreal said in an email to the North Texas Daily. Although UNT does not have all of the resources in one physical location, Villarreal said UNT is still able and willing to support DACA and undocumented students.

Nuñez-Janes said faculty and staff are dedicated to advocating for students, but upper administration continues to show “ignorance, lack of will and fear,” which the professor said is a reason why it took two decades to create the EDRC. The administration needs to undoubtedly support the undocumented/DACAmented population on campus “sin miedo” — without fear — Nuñez-Janes said.

Featured Illustration by J. Robynn Aviles

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Jeffrey Ruiz

Jeffrey Ruiz

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