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UNT holds DACA informational forum

UNT holds DACA informational forum

Denton residents gathered at The Square to protest the repeal the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals better known as DACA. The repeal of DACA affects 800,000 immagrents in America. Cameron Roe

UNT holds DACA informational forum
September 19
21:08 2017

UNT held an informational forum regarding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, at noon on Tuesday in the University Union. The forum was organized to provide information to DACA students about how they might be affected after President Trump’s recent decision to end the program.

Director of Student Legal Services Keisha Ware led most of the forum, with contributions from Sarah Herrera of Counseling and Testing and Renee McNamara, the UNT survivor advocate. About 15 students attended.

Since the President’s announcement on Sept. 5, UNT leaders have issued statements and promoted university resources for affected students.  President Smatresk declared his support for DACA students the same day, saying, “I want to make clear that I unequivocally support DACA, undocumented and other students who are overcoming significant barriers to educational attainment.”

Provost Jennifer Cowley reiterated these sentiments in her own statement on Sept. 8, referring students to UNT resources and a website dedicated solely to DACA-related information.

The university is in the process of hiring a part-time attorney with experience in immigration law to join Student Legal Services and better help DACA students. The new lawyer will serve in a part-time position to begin within a few weeks, becoming the second attorney at Student Legal Services. The Student Services Fee Committee allotted funding for the position after UNT’s Student Government Association recommended the university hire such a person to assist DACA students and others. The position is permanent and intended to continue after issues with the DACA program are resolved.

“As a senator I’m completely behind DACA students,” SGA College of Science Senator Ram Prasanna said. “That’s the reason I’m at the forum, so hopefully I’ll be equipped to help in this situation.”

What is DACA

The DACA or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program allows certain undocumented immigrants who came into the U.S. as minors to receive legal status and have their deportation deferred for a two-year period, after which they may renew DACA status. It also gives some participants eligibility for a work permit for the same period.

President Trump announced his decision to repeal the program on Sept. 5, encouraging Congress to approve a replacement before the phase-out process begins in six months. If no such replacement is passed, undocumented immigrants will lose the ability to renew their DACA status and be subject to deportation.

Marketing sophomore Bryan Segura is a DACA recipient who won’t be applying for renewal because his status expires after March 5, 2018.

“After the March 5 date, I’m kind of lost without the government,” Segura said. “There’s nothing for sure we can hope for. There’s no security for us.”

Broadcast journalism junior Joel Miwa-Medina had DACA status until early 2016. He was able to gain citizenship through his marriage. He and his fiancé planned to marry in October 2016 but pushed it to November 2015 because of the 2016 election.

“It’s sad to build everything from scratch and for it to be taken away from you,” Miwa-Medina said. “It’s heartbreaking. Especially when your heart is American.”

Have a plan

Ware emphasized the importance of students being prepared for the potential end of DACA. She said every DACA student should set up an appointment with a legal advisor as soon as possible so they can get help developing a plan.

“It can be through our office or private counsel but we’re encouraging all of our DACA students to make sure they speak with an attorney regarding their particular factual situation so they can receive all the information they need,” Ware said. “They can set up an appointment with anyone on the legal team but just get legal advice, period.”

Ware said part of the reason planning ahead is so important is because renewing your DACA status in time could give DACA students the chance to be in the U.S. for longer and allow a solution to be brought about.

“Those people who are able to renew before October 5 will have an additional 2 years of protection regardless,” Ware said. “That gives more time for a situation to be worked out or a law to be passed to codify what DACA was.”

Ware added that those who can’t renew may qualify for other programs, and should talk to an attorney as soon as they can.

Pre-communications freshman Orvil Tarango was one of the first in line to apply in 2012. This also means he will be one of the first to be taken off DACA. His plan expires after the March 5 deadline. DACA helped him go to college.

“It has given me an opportunity to work without fear,” Tarango said.

Now that he’s at risk of losing DACA, he is researching his options.

“It’s tough,” he said. “Something that’s helped you heal and grow is suddenly being taken away. I have to hope for the best and prepare for the worst.”

The Dean of Students is prepared to help as well.

“Our role is to help advocate where students feel it’s needed,” Dean of Students Maureen McGuinness said. “We help them navigate this big institution and get them the help that they need.”

Get help with the renewal process

Students can apply to renew their DACA status between now and Oct. 5, 2017 if it is set to expire between now and March 5, 2018. However, all applications must reach U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services by October 5 via the physical, paper process of DACA renewal, meaning students should plan ahead.

Political Science senior and DACA recipient Vanessa Garcia said the repeal decision made her especially sad for the children who don’t have DACA yet and may now never have the chance. Garcia spent the past summer as a legal intern for Catholic Charities, helping people with immigration and DACA issues.

Garcia arrived in the U.S. when she was one year old. Her parents have told her to stay and finish school if they are deported.

“I’d tell DACA students not to give up hope,” Garcia said. “We have to keep fighting, organizing, calling our congressmen. The last thing we can lose is hope.”

The application requires many of the same documents used to initially receive DACA status, obtaining copies of which may further lengthen the process.

The application fee to renew DACA status is $500. Student legal services in Union 411 can give students additional help with the process for free.

“We’re able to assist students with filling out the paperwork with their renewals and we can answer questions about the phase out and how it’s going to impact that individual student,” Ware said. “We also want to assist students with coming up with a plan as to what their rights are and keep students informed about issues in regards to the DACA process.”

Know your rights

UNT students’ personal information is protected under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974. This prohibits UNT from sharing student information, including immigration status, with third parties such as federal immigration agents without the written consent of the student.

Ware pointed out that Student Legal Services gives students double protection with attorney-client privilege as well as FERPA. Ware’s office is collecting student emails at events to send monthly newsletters to with information and updates on topics including DACA. She encouraged students to email the office at studentlegal@unt.edu to join the list, which does not consist solely of DACA recipients.

Freshman Orvil Tarango says President Smatresk’s support of DACA students is reassuring to them.

“It helps to understand he’s behind us and that he’s willing to help,” Tarango said.

Risks and benefits of exposure

Students with DACA status must refrain from receiving any legal charges exceeding a minor traffic citation. Renewing DACA requires applicants to disclose criminal charges and violations of the law. Recipients can lose their DACA status or have renewal denied on this basis.

“DACA status is a privilege and not a right, so you can lose the privilege,” Ware said. “If you get a minor traffic citation make sure you get with our office to make sure it’s taken care of.”

Students should keep in mind the risk of being arrested at certain types of protests or gatherings, such as those without permits, and weigh the risks for their situation.

“It’s very encouraging to see young people advocating for their rights and marching and protesting,” Ware said. “That’s very noble but as a DACA student you want to keep in mind that you do not want to do anything that causes you to break the law, like get arrested for civil disobedience or criminal trespass, because that can trigger a revocation of your status.”

Practice self-care

Students should take time to ensure they are in a good mental state, and get professional help if necessary. The Counseling and Testing Center in Chestnut hall provides students with free counseling as well as a variety of group sessions including stress reduction. It also houses the MindSpa, an area open to students who wish to relax, meditate or work on stress management.

At the DACA Information Forum, Sarah Herrera from the Counseling and Testing Center advised that reaching out and seeking help when needed is important. She stressed that self-care is not self-indulgent, but crucial to maintaining one’s personal health.

Even those who are not able to renew their DACA status can benefit from the services available to students. Tarango was aware of the different student services on campus but did not know how much they were willing to help until the Information Forum on Tuesday.

“This is definitely an eye-opener to services I may not have seeked out before,” he said.

Featured Image: Denton residents gathered at The Square to protest the repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals better known as DACA. The repeal of DACA affects 800,000 undocumented immigrants in America. Cameron Roe

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1 Comment

  1. sugar daddy
    sugar daddy September 22, 02:14

    DACA status is a privilege and not a right, so you can lose the privilege,

    Reply to this comment

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