In the first installment of the Engage! series, Director of Policy Research and Advocacy, Teri Lyn Hinds broadly outlined four levels in which student affairs professionals might advocate on campus: institutionally, as faculty and staff, supporting students and civic engagement, and personally. In the second installment of the series we take a deeper dive into these forms of advocacy through an issue-based lens. The Policy and Advocacy team at NASPA keeps track of policies which fall under five tenants of the NASPA 2017-2020 Public Policy Agenda: student success and college completion; student safety and wellness; cost of higher education, student debt, and borrower protections; inclusive opportunities for access and success in higher education; and civic engagement and freedom of expression. Today we’re going to focus specifically on immigration policies around undocumented individuals, specifically, those individuals who were brought to the US by their parents as children without a legal entry status. These conversations center on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
Under the Obama Administration, the Department of Homeland Security implemented DACA as an executive action to allow individuals who were brought into the US as children to register for work permits so they could legally work in the United States or pursue a postsecondary education. The program included several restrictions – such as not having committed a significant crime – and over the course of the last seven years, has allowed about 800,000 young adults to work or go to college. Many of those individuals have enrolled in college, found employment, and started to raise a family of their own. Some recipients of the DACA program have even become employees within student affairs, continuing to support students who, like them, want to uncover what America has to offer.
However, because DACA was created through the action of an executive agency, it was also subject to reversal through the same power, and the Trump Administration announced in early September that it would be ending DACA through a 6-month rollout process, with an official expiration of March 5, 2018. This action was long anticipated, though President Trump had seemed to change his mind on how to handle DACA recipients many times since his campaign, when he initially promised swift action to end DACA. During the months between his inauguration and his decision to rescind DACA, the air of uncertainty around the program prompted many college campuses to declare themselves as “sanctuary campuses” in support of their undocumented immigrant students, staff, and faculty. Some states subsequently pursued reciprocal action to punish these campuses for what their state legislatures felt was inappropriate lack of cooperation between campuses and federal immigration officials.
In announcing the rescission of DACA, President Trump called on Congress to pass legislation that would protect undocumented immigrants that arrived as children, but it’s unclear whether or what legislation may eventually pass. As an institutional approach to advocacy, a college or university may reach out directly to policymakers through their campus government affairs staff. For example, during the month of October, the American Council on Education garnered the support from over 800 college and university presidents and chancellors urging Congress to find a legislative solution.
Additionally, student affairs professionals can push for an institutional review of policies with a focus on barriers for undocumented individuals. While DACA recipients currently have access to work permits, driver’s licenses, and Social Security Numbers, these benefits will end by March 5, 2020 should Congress fail to pass legislation protecting them. Further, many undocumented individuals on campus are not currently DACA recipients. Institutions can limit the barriers these individuals encounter by checking policies and scholarship opportunities for requirements such as a driver’s license or Social Security Number and choosing different identification requirements.
Student affairs professionals can also advocate for the dissemination of clear information on institutional policies and practices. For instance, as “sanctuary campus” has no legal definition, campuses that identify as sanctuary spaces do not provide any legal benefits over those institutions that have not declared sanctuary status. Certain states such as California and Illinois have passed statewide sanctuary policies that deter cooperation between local law enforcement, including campus enforcement, and Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE). Other localities have citywide policies that can extend to students at public universities.
This does not, however, mean that campus policies that provide protections for undocumented individuals can’t be clearly posted and explained. Generally, postsecondary institutions are considered “sensitive locations” in which enforcement activity by ICE is limited. Local and campus police are also not required to assist ICE, and the only state law (in Texas) requiring this level of cooperation is currently held in a standstill by the 5th Court of Appeals. Further, data on individuals do not have to be shared with immigration officials without a court order. According to the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), disclosure of student personally identifiable information (PII) must “comply with a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena”; ICE detainers do not fall under either of these categories. Campuses can provide this kind of information through easily accessible forums so that undocumented individuals can be fully aware of their rights, and advocates can better provide support where applicable.
Faculty and staff can advocate on behalf of the campus community through student support services, word of mouth, and through partnerships with community based organizations. If the institution does not have a dedicated or established resource center for undocumented students, identifying safe members of campus staff that students can go to for support and information dissemination about local policies regarding in-state tuition, financial assistance, and scholarship opportunities. Institutions may consider partnerships with their law schools or collaborate with community agencies to provide free, local legal advocacy services that can provide students with information on limitations, benefits, and new policy information regarding DACA and can encourage and facilitate students to meet with licensed immigration attorneys where applicable. Additionally, ethnic-based community organizations often have information readily available and translated into multiple languages.
Within the classroom and through word of mouth, faculty and staff can also help disseminate stories of the positive contributions DACA recipients make to their communities to the public and to policy makers. Care should be taken in the language used to talk about undocumented individuals, who deserve basic human rights no matter their achievements or accomplishments. . To learn more about appropriate language use in reference to undocumented individuals, the Policy and Advocacy Team recommends those interested to refer to the Undocumented Immigrants and Allies Knowledge Community who offer an array of resources and expert knowledge on the issue area.
In order to advocate on a personal level for undocumented individuals on campus, the Policy and Advocacy team recommends drawing on professional expertise to advocate broadly, and to use your voice to advocate at a grassroots level. Individuals might think about their personal role and access on campus to network with the undocumented community and provide support on an individual level. For example, a student affairs professional might be able to make time to address the needs of an individual student, or might have access to other safe faculty or staff to refer that individual to.
Outside of campus, student affairs professionals can utilize social media platforms to educate friends and family, share information, and encourage outreach. In the case of undocumented individuals, student affairs professionals must be careful not to share the status of someone unintentionally without receiving their permission. Further, as explained in the first Engage! post, individuals must be careful not to speak on behalf of their institution or represent their institution within their personal media platforms. However; student affairs professionals are certainly allowed to have personal lives and advocate on behalf of personal beliefs on their own time, and social media is a great space to get the conversation going.
Individuals can also reach out to their congressional representatives in an effort to move legislation, such as a bill that would codify the DACA protections, forward. This can be especially useful in states and localities where policymakers are divided on issues or haven’t stated a strong stance.
Finally, student affairs professionals can advocate on the level of supporting student advocacy and civic engagement. One way to support student advocacy is to create room for guest speakers who specialize in civic engagement efforts such as United We Dream or Southern Poverty Law Center. In addition to creating these opportunities, campuses can encourage students to utilize their right to protest and participate in movement-building efforts.
Following the 2016 presidential election, campuses erupted in protests, in which students urged universities to unite in their declaration of “sanctuary” to protect undocumented individuals. These protests resulted in around 30 institutions taking on a “sanctuary campus” status, and other institutions making statements in support of their undocumented student population, despite choosing not to identify with the “sanctuary campus” terminology. Student affairs professionals can support student participation in these kinds of protests as long as they fall within campus codes of conduct.
NASPA members also have access to NASPA’s Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement (CLDE) initiative, which offers important tools on promoting civic engagement on campus.
Please look for our final installment in the Engage! Series next week for another example on how student affairs professionals can advocate for trans individuals across these four levels of engagement.