Undocumented students concerned about future under Trump administration

Tuesday, November 22, 2016 - 6:56pm

Throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, stricter immigration policies have been at the forefront of President-elect Donald Trump’s platform.

His policies have shifted in extremity over the passing months, from a call for a ban on all Muslim immigration to a broader ban to terror-prone nations such as Iraq and Syria. His list of priorities released after his election includes many of his initial proposals, such as deportations of undocumented immigrants, building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and cancelling executive actions signed by President Barack Obama.

Trump has deemed these orders, which include ones aimed at protecting undocumented children and adolescents and the families of U.S. citizens, as unconstitutional.

The main orders that Trump can immediately override once he steps into office are the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, which allow for undocumented immigrants who entered the United States as children and parents of U.S. citizens to remain in the country and seek lawful employment.

In a statement Monday, University President Mark Schlissel stated his support for the continuation of DACA to allow students to finish their studies at the University, saying he had joined dozens of other colleges and universities in co-signing a letter urging the federal government to continue the protections at the faculty Senate Assembly meeting Monday.

Silvia Pedraza, professor of sociology and American culture, said if Trump is able to accomplish all that he has outlined, it will have negative effects on many communities.

“If he makes good on all of them, the next four years will be terrible,” she said. “It will of course be particularly terrible for those who are refugees and undocumented, but it will also be terrible for all those who know them, who care for them, who would like to extend a hand of welcome to people who have contributed well to our society.”

Pedraza said Trump's plans to undo these orders play into what she believes is the worst possible situation in regards to immigration policy.

“Another promise he will make good on is he will dismantle Obama’s executive orders with respect to DACA, so the young DREAM Act children, adolescents and young adults and DAPA,” she said. “That’s all in the worst-case scenario.”

Washtenaw Community College student Ivan Flores moved from Mexico to the United States with his parents when he was 6 years old under his father’s work visa, but his visa later expired after his parents separated. Flores said while living under DACA, he exists in an ambiguous situation where he is not fully legally or illegally in the country.

“There’s a very weird legal gray area,” he said. “We are not here lawfully but we are not here unlawfully, and there’s no path in the system to get out of that.”

The most prominent issue Flores faces currently, he said, is how fellow students do not understand the uncertainty surrounding his situation.

“Even for the people I know and talk to, it’s often hard for them to understand,” he said. “Sometimes there’s sympathy, sometimes there’s not, but people just don’t understand what it’s like.”

Social Work student Maria Ibarra-Frayre is also protected under DACA after the tourist visa she was granted when immigrating to the United States when she was 9 expired. During her time on campus, she has worked to help other undocumented students find a place on campus of their own and to expand in-state tuition rights to nontraditional students, saying she wants them to have the same rights as resident students.

The University granted in-state tuition to undocumented students in 2013, but the ruling only applies to students who have graduated high school within the past 28 months, which can rule out transfer and graduate students.

“I feel really passionate about college access for undocumented students,” Ibarra-Frayre said. “And creating space where they’re safe and they can have some kind of semblance of a normal life.”

Flores and Ibarra-Frayre both said they fear for their own statuses under Trump’s administration. Ibarra-Frayre noted that everyone with DACA or DAPA status are registered with the U.S. government, providing information to allow for their deportation.

“I don’t think they really understand the gravity of what DACA does,” she said. “I don’t think they know that immigration has everything they need to know about me … even though, yes, it is really hard to deport 11 million people, they have the information of thousands of DACA students.”

Overall, however, Ibarra-Frayre said she was most concerned about the real human lives behind the numbers — the families and students whose futures will be directly impacted by the repeal of DACA and DAPA.

“I thought that I could have a normal life with DACA, but now it might be gone,” she said. “I’m more angry than afraid … I’m more worried about students in high school who want to go to college who imagine a future for themselves that is not going to happen.”

Similarly, Flores said he’s worried the country’s election of Trump will have ramifications for more than immigration — and that given the sway Trump’s rhetoric has had on millions, he finds the future of the nation more troubling than his situation.

“I’m scared for the country and not necessarily myself,” he said. “I don’t think we’ve ever had a demagogue like Donald Trump get elected. The thing that scares me the most is how easily people are taken in by his lies.”