Thursday marked undocumented immigrants’ last day to submit renewals to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — but undocumented students at the University of Michigan were undeterred. One hundred protesters marched from the Diag to the Fleming Administration Building to lobby University officials for institutional resources and protection for vulnerable students.
After President Donald Trump’s successive travel ban orders in January, and again after the repeal of DACA in September, University President Mark Schlissel stated the University would not disclose students’ immigration statuses voluntarily. Schlissel also formed an Immigration Working Group to monitor and analyze gaps in resources. Students, however, said the gestures fall short.
Thursday’s rally, organized by the Student Community of Progressive Empowerment, centered around four new requests of the administration: fully meeting financial need, extending guidelines to obtain in-state tuition, appointing a central staff liaison between undocumented students and the University and improving accessibility for prospective students.
Public Policy junior Yvonne Navarrete said SCOPE’s points were all well within the bandwith of the University.
“We’re not asking for a silver spoon or silver platter,” Navarrete said. “We’re asking for basic resources. When I asked my financial aid officer to help me because I’m DACA and I don’t know how to get money, and they asked me, ‘What’s DACA?’, what’s that supposed to do? How am I supposed to get to college if I’m supposed to navigate this by myself?”
“We’re asking the University for these things that are tangible, that are simple,” she continued. “We’ve sat down with them and they outlined multiple reasons it’s complicated, or it takes too long. No. Our dreams cannot wait any longer.”
LSA senior Barbara Diaz pointed to expiration dates now looming over DACAmented students. These deadlines, many speakers agreed, place significant constraints on the abilities of students — and their families — to fully fund tuition, especially as undocumented students cannot maintain jobs without citizenship. Many students work to put themselves through college, but the University requires students to enroll no more than 28 months after high school graduation to obtain in-state tuition.
“Twenty-eight months can feel like four seconds when you’re working,” LSA junior Hector Arvizu said.
Moreover, most federal, state and institutional financial aid awards are contingent upon U.S. citizenship.
“There is limited U-M need-based financial aid for undergraduate undocumented students who qualify for in-state tuition at U-M,” the Office of Financial Aid’s website reads.
E. Royster Harper, vice president for student life, joined the crowd at Fleming toward the end of the protest. She was the only executive officer in attendance, but said she reviewed the requests last night and was confident about making progress with students.
“Seldom when we get requests do we make a decision without thinking it through, solving one issue and creating another,” she said. “I think we’ll work it out.”
Students criticized what they see as a patchwork network of offices and units for undocumented students to turn to for resources — with different points of contact for admissions, residency and financial aid. Diaz called information available to DACAmented students “lost, misleading and inefficient.”
LSA senior Daniel Lopez transferred from to the University from a community college in Grand Rapids. Barriers to his admission, he said, were such that at times he did not want to attend the University.
“I had to wait a long long time to find out if I’d get in-state tuition and I was at the point of giving up,” he said. “I believe I have all the qualities to be here and I have so much to offer … why don’t they want me?”
LSA senior Hwi Sun Yoo is an undocumented student from South Korea. He stressed the multiracial imperative to solve issues of access, as hurdles to undocumented students affect more than the Latino community on campus.
“I didn’t know about any other undocumented students here until I joined SCOPE,” he said. “That’s why the University needs to centralize resources. We’re invisible.”
“I made it here,” Navarette concluded. “But how many of us didn’t even make it to these steps? How many were denied entry? We have to pave the way for those who’ll come after us because our dreams cannot wait.”