On Thursday, Malcolm X House hosted an open conversation on the termination of DACA by the Trump administration, which affects students at the University in ways both immediate and indirect.
Since Trump’s announcement about DACA on Sept. 5, the 800,000 DACA recipients, often referred to as Dreamers, have lived in uncertainty about what their future holds, as it remains unclear if Congress or the President have any intention to replace the act. The conversation aimed to address this sense of uncertainty and give students, mostly those immediately impacted, a space to share their experiences and fears.
“To me, it just didn’t make sense because the program seems to offer so many different opportunities to different people and it doesn’t only benefit those people but it benefits the country, so it was just really confusing to me as to why they actually took it away,” an attendee of the talk said.
DACA was implemented in 2012 by the Obama administration and allows undocumented minors who entered the country illegally to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and permit to work. The act especially helped students applying to universities with financial aid who need to do work study to help pay for tuition and general costs.
“I thought it was bullshit because everyone knows it is mainly against Latinos and you’re just limiting more Latinos to go to school,” an attendee said. “There are a lot of DACA people at my high school and the process when they’re applying. They’re gonna be like, ‘How am I applying if I can’t get any financial aid,’ so there will more dropouts and fewer Latinos getting careers, basically whites only for all the good careers.”
Speakers made clear that the repeal not only hurts Latinx communities but also other immigrant populations from around the world.
“There’s been a sentiment that it’s just the Latin population, but it spans across a lot of different people,” one of the talk’s organizers said. “It extends to people in the Caribbean, across the African continent, and the Somalians.”
One of the greatest points of anxiety vented by those at the conversation who are directly impacted by the repeal is that the government now has personal information about them. To become eligible for DACA, applicants had to give up their personal and family information with the promise of amnesty. However, with that information now under the control of the Trump administration, that information could be used to find and deport them, putting many Dreamers in a worse place than they were before DACA.
“The whole other fear about being undocumented now is that the government knows where you are and
where you go to school, who you’re affiliated with, and it brings this anxiety that you don’t know what could happen at any time,” a junior said.
The conversation quickly turned to the University’s status as a sanctuary campus and what forms of protection that might entail with the eminent threat of increased deportations.
“One of the major things that we’re trying to get across is that we don’t really know what this means for Wesleyan, as much as they want to claim to be a sanctuary campus,” one of the facilitators of the discus- sion said. “I’m not sure what’s going to happen to financial aid.”
Another recurring discussion revolved around what students at Wesleyan can do to help those around them who are affected.
“We are working on a student support group that will try to get in contact with alumni who are lawyers or are in law school and try to make some kind of network for if students need them and have one on one sessions,” a junior said.
“There is the possibility that we try to get family members of students who do pro-bono work to be on some compiled list to offer help to undocumented students who need it,” another attendee said.
Those who were under DACA have until Oct. 5 to renew their applications, which costs close to $500. Since this is unaffordable for many immigrants and families, an idea was offered to pool money to help those on campus and in Middletown to pay the cost.
With uncertainty about what, if any, reforms Congress will pass, as well as how the University and activist circles will respond, many attendees found this unknown future to be the hardest part of the DACA fallout.
“Individuals and families that are subject to this are scared. A lot of people are just really vulnerable and that’s how it feels and that uncertainty is almost more dangerous because we don’t know what we’re gonna do about it,” a senior said.
Luke Goldstein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.