Claire Voltarel, Campus Carrier Staff Writer
The recent cancellation of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) raises concerns for many members of the Berry community.
DACA, implemented by President Obama in 2012, gives children of undocumented immigrants a two-year period of protection from immediate deportation. During this period, minors are eligible to receive a work permit, social security number and driver’s license. The program is available for renewal after the two years.
The ending of DACA worries many participants who fear potential deportation for themselves or their families, as their status is no longer protected. Berry is home to several of these students on DACA, called Dreamers. According to Dean of Students Debbie Heida, the administration intentionally does not know the number of Dreamers on campus.
“We have worked to make sure we don’t have a list anywhere,” Heida said. “And that helps protect students.”
Many students are concerned for themselves and family members who could be forced to return to their country of origin. Most of these students only lived in their native country for a few years before they were brought to the U.S..
“DACA was designed to deal with people who came to this country on no choice of their own,” government professor Michael Bailey said. “This is the only world in which they know.”
Several on-campus Dreamers attested to this same sentiment.
In reference to their native country, one Berry Dreamer said, “It’s not my country. The U.S. is my country.”
Bailey stated that the ending of DACA does not guarantee deportation, however many other potential issues cause worry to students, such as losing the ability to own a license, social security card or work permit.
“As a student, it makes paying for school really hard because I can’t work,” sophomore Dreamer Sosa Barbosa said.
Many DACA students, including Dreamer junior Daniel Leon, recognize that Berry’s confidentiality and protection as a private school will help their security. However, Leon, Barbosa and others are concerned about members of the program who are using DACA to work and would not have a place to go.
“Even with DACA, it doesn’t matter how long you’re here or how good of a person you are,” Leon said. “You are never going to become a resident, and the fear of it being taken away is always hanging over you.”
According to Heida, Berry administration has had conversations directly and indirectly with students, providing information about where to find support in a time of confusion and stress. The administration is attempting to provide a safe space for students to come with their questions and needs.
“We hate seeing people that we consider part of our Berry family dealing with this stress and uncertainty,” Heida said. “Because as far as we are concerned, they are Berry students.”
Heida and Provost Mary Boyd both promise to do their best to support and protect these students, and ask students to let them know how faculty can assist them in order to sort things out.
Many campus groups have taken a strong stance in an effort to promote DACA awareness and support. Junior Suleima Milan-Salinas, president of Orgullo, says she and other groups plan to give out informative pamphlets and hold demonstrations as part of this effort.
“I’ve seen a lot of progressive groups on campus that really want to unite for this one cause,” Milan-Salinas said. “These are our friends next to us, and we need to protect our friends.”
Many clubs will have tables outside Krannert next week, informing students about different local and national issues. According to Heida, DACA will be a main topic that is discussed.
“There is a time to act and a time to set it to the side,” another Berry Dreamer said. “We have been sitting to the side for some time so the time to act would be now.”
Many Dreamers and supporters of DACA believe being educated on the topic is the best way to get involved. Milan-Salinas encourages students to ask questions to understand, not to offend.
“The biggest enemy to DACA and immigration is being uninformed,” Barbosa said. “The most important thing before taking either side is to read about it and know what it is.”
The community encourages Dreamers on campus not to lose hope. Several Dreamers want to inspire others to continue to work hard and live the dignified lives they always have. Administration, fellow students and other members of Berry want to support Dreamers in this uncertainty.
“Anyone who is a Dreamer is just another student, roommate, hallmate, fellow athlete. We just want to be treated with dignity,” Leon said.