By Amanda Wich and Brian Pharies
When news broke that DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) was threatened, the PPCC community responded with support and resources for its Dreamers (students protected under DACA).
Colorado Community College System President, Dr. Nancy J. McCallin, sent out an email expressing system support for undocumented students, along with a list of immigration lawyers available to DACA students.
PPCC President, Dr. Lance Bolton emailed the college community also, acknowledging the uncertainty immigrant students may feel. He offered reassurance along with the promise of further communication about resources available to all undocumented students—DACA and ASSET (a Colorado law that allows some immigrant students in-state tuition at state higher education institutions).
Even with reassurances, DACA recipient and PPCC student, 30-year-old Yesenia Mendias, voiced concerns about her future here at PPCC and in the United States in general. Mendias pays her tuition out of pocket, because DACA students do not receive federal financial aid. Mendias got out her Colorado Driver’s license which showed a black line across the top with lettering that declares her illegal.
“The DACA act protects me from violations that could lead to deportation, but if the act is canceled, then I could be deported,” Mendias said.
She explained how her parents migrated with her and her brother when they were 14 and 4. They came on a visa and then stayed. Mendias’ parents are divorced, but her father has since remarried an American which allows him to stay in the U.S.
Mendias said, “I’m so worried about my mother, she’s alone except for us, and what will happen to her.”
Last week students who have DACA status and students who oppose the DACA program sat side by side and talked about their ideas and experiences. One of those was PPCC nursing student, Army Reservist, and Global Village ambassador, Mandetebe Bitema, who worries what will happen to the 800,000 students if DACA is not renewed by Congress.
Originally from Togo, a West African country, Bitema left to escape war and corruption in search of the American dream. While he will not be directly affected by the ending of DACA, as an ambassador for PPCC’s Global Village, he wanted to be a voice for other immigrants who will be affected by the federal government’s decision.
Bitema believes both faculty and students seem supportive of undocumented students, though he is unsure if most students fully understand the implications of DACA ending. Overall, he would like to see more action towards support and reassurance of DACA students that PPCC is a safe place for them and that the school is doing everything it can to make them feel secure in their educational and personal futures.
Robin Schofield, who directs the Global Village for PPCC, said, “They are all our students, our community. This is what we’re supposed to be doing in college: considering multiple points of view and learning from each other in ways that transform us.”
President Trump has said he will not enforce the deportation of DACA recipients for six months, and has turned the fate of the childhood arrivals over to Congress. In the meantime, PPCC will do everything it can, legally, to keep its Dreamers. Students wanting information and assistance with their undocumented status can visit ppcc.edu/undocumented-students.
PPCC will host two DACA Q&As with immigration lawyers in the Centennial Campus Grove: 1:30-2:30 p.m. Sept. 20 and 6-7 p.m. Sept. 22.