More than undocumented: workers, creators, DREAMers
The impact of Trump’s decision on students
The new era of American immigration policy headed by the Trump administration has set the lives of many in flux, considering that the historical demographic makeup of the United States consists of immigrants from many different foreign countries. In his first 100 days as president, three executive orders were issued by President Donald Trump in relation to immigration: penalties against sanctuary cities that provide protections for immigrants, a temporary freeze on admissions for refugees, and the call for construction of a wall along the US-Mexico border. With increasingly restrictive policies regarding immigration, Americans have become more tense.
Though the bills are shrouded in language that appears to only target illegal immigration, legal immigration is also facing an impact from the changes in immigration policy. According to a study conducted by the Cato Institute, the new immigration plan proposed by Trump would “cut the number of legal immigrants by up to 44 percent, or half a million immigrants, annually.” The role of immigrants in American society is crucial considering that immigrants are a rapidly growing part of the labor force in the United States. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in 2016, nearly 27 million foreign-born persons make up the nation’s labor force, which equates to 16.9 percent of the total labor. Additionally, the Trump administration’s immigration policies seem to be skewed toward certain nations and ethnic groups. Some consider policies, such as the border wall, are aimed at people of Hispanic and Latinx descent who accounted for 48.3 percent of the foreign labor force in 2016.
However, immigrants in the United States are not just workers; they are also critical community members, students, teachers, families, and human beings who are striving for an improved way of life. The 2018 State of the Union Address from President Trump included the issue of immigration policies. Touted as a proposal, “Where nobody gets everything they want, but where our country gets the critical reforms it needs,” by Trump, the outlined policy that the current administration provided has led to continued socio-political gridlock. Although the White House proposal included a path to citizenship for 1.8 million individuals that are eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, it also includes a demand for a $25 billion budget to increase border security funding. With mixed-policy initiatives, it is evident that the current administration lacks both a solid stance in regard to immigration.
One particular piece of President Trump’s State of the Union speech has caused discontentment among the public because of the socio-political undertones the statement created. During the address, President Trump said, “Tonight, I am extending an open hand to work with members of both parties—Democrats and Republicans—to protect our citizens of every background, color, religion, and creed. My duty, and the sacred duty of every elected official in this chamber, is to defend Americans—to protect their safety, their families, their communities, and their right to the American dream. Because Americans are dreamers, too.”
Playing on the name that millions of young Americans have adopted from the acronym of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, Trump’s statement of “Americans are dreamers, too,” created division between documented and undocumented citizens who identify as American because of the collective experiences they have had in the United States. The term “DREAMer” has since been used as an umbrella term for young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children and, as a result, have been raised into American culture. This demographic has become increasingly vocal as the current administration’s policies and sentiments have threatened their livelihoods.
Many colleges and universities across the US have released statements offering their support for students impacted by immigration policy changes. Some universities, such as the University of California system, have pledged to protect individual student identities for those who are unauthorized and undocumented immigrants.
Although individual universities may take action to protect its DACA students and DREAMers, they still face the threat of federal cuts to educational research and development funds, which many universities depend on to provide a high standard of education to students. A 2014 census data report was used by the Migration Policy Institute to generate estimates for how many DACA-eligible individuals would be impacted, and nearly 51 percent of the DACA-eligible population were students.
DACA has allowed many of its recipients to gain opportunities to a higher education that they previously would not have had access to. The loss of aid and support in higher education for many undocumented students who now stand on shaky ground regarding their education. In some states, such as Georgia and South Carolina, certain universities block undocumented students from attending college as residents and receiving financial aid, which serve as major barriers to educating an entire demographic that is facing challenges from federal policy changes.
At CU Denver, multiple resources are available for students impacted by changes in DACA and national sentiments on immigration. Many of the scholarships offered at CU Denver do not require proof of United States citizenship for students to be eligible. Additionally, the creation of the CU Dream Scholarship specifically supports undocumented students as a relief fund. On Nov. 5, 2017, after the United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the end of the DACA program, Chancellor Dorothy Horrell of CU Denver released a statement where she said, “I hope that knowing we will do our best at CU Denver to advocate and provide support for our community offers some reassurance during these trying times,” emphasizing the value the university places on diversity and inclusion.
When asked about her perspective on the issue, Frida Silva, a CU Denver student and Student Advisory Committee member to the Auraria Board (SACAB) representative, said, “Trump’s State of the Union Address was difficult to watch, slowly draining the hope I had for a comprehensive immigration reform. The first ‘pillar’ of immigration is a bleak hit on a hopeful and workable reform for our fellow DACA students. Trump began the first pillar by upholding the promise of a compromised plan for DACA students. Not saying that was the only thing wrong with the four pillars of reform, but how long must our DACA peers wait? Draining and hopeless it may seem at times, but this is what happens when we have a polarized political climate working on a controversial issue like immigration reform. That just means we are going to have to continue to work 10 times harder and longer to achieve success. We will get the change we need!”