Thursday, April 17, 2014

Resource: American Universities and Undocumented Students

I'm writing a piece on the ways that Catholic Colleges and Universities, especially my own, are helping undocumented students. The help comes in three ways: Money for tuition/expenses, changing discourse, and political action. What I'm really interested in for this piece is the link between mission and policy changes.

One piece that has emerged is terminology
  • Some universities use the term "Dreamers," referring to students who are advocating for the DREAM act. A typical dreamer came to this country as a child, often as a very young child.
  • More universities use the term "undocumented," and the students to whom I have spoken use that language to describe themselves most commonly. 
  • There are still places that endorse "illegal." In fact, yesterday the USA - Undocumented Students and Allies met at Illinois Institute of Technology to demand an end to such terminology and to publicly ask for a meeting with the higher administration to talk about undocumented students at IIT. That said, I also know there are people at IIT who have been working on this topic for a long time. I'd need to do more reporting to figure out what's going on there (and it's not the focus of this piece).
Related to terminology, I have found both in interviews and in reading/listening to undocumented students the adoption of the language of "coming out" about their status. It's an interesting turn of phrase because, of course, sexuality is a very different kind of identity statement. People who are undocumented would like to change their status, but I think coming out is appropriate - it's about being open about with one's identity and fighting stigma and exploitation. It also enables the language of allies, offering a clear role to people who are documented but who want to fight for equality here. Perhaps most importantly, it places undocumented students into the category of diversity

Diversity is something that universities try very hard to improve. Diversity has an office. Sometimes a Chief Diversity Officer, too! It has committees. It has budgets. Maybe not big budgets, but budgets none the less. So making undocumented about diversity and status has, I think, helped the issue find traction in academic institutions.

Here are some resources:
I haven't verified most of these statements here, and the formatting is weird, but what I find interesting is the schools that use "international" student as the way to accept undocumented students. 
Dominican Resources

For students at Dominican, the word is out. "When undocumented students apply to a school it's because they've already heard that it's welcoming," says freshman Arianna Salgado, 19, an undocumented student who was born in Mexico and has lived in the USA since age 6. "It makes you really comfortable with the whole application process."
I also interviewed Salgado for my piece.
  • CNN Interview with Donna Carroll - 2/1/12 - Video, Transcript of followup discussion.
There's more, but this is a good start. And no, no one is trying to sue us about it.

More to come on this. Do you know your university's position? Let me know.