Rebecca Dickson, Reporter
Imagine this: a student pays $495 in order to ensure their ability to stay inside the U.S. to complete their degree. After making plans to attend University of Washington and finding ways to pay tuition, the student faces an issue. The day before graduation from Pierce College, the student is detained, sent to Northwest Detention Center and then deported.
This is a possibility for DREAMers, people who are covered under former President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program. While all are undocumented immigrants, each person is allowed to defer deportation for two years if they are accepted into the program. The hope is that people can keep applying to be DREAMers until they apply and are accepted to become U.S. citizens.
DACA allows people who came to the United States without proper documentation before 14 years of age to remain in the country on a renewable, temporary basis for two years. However, this program is likely to change under the Trump administration
With President Donald Trump’s executive order of “protecting the nation from foreign terrorist entry into the United States,” many organizations are left questioning whether the president’s future executive orders will affect DACA.
In the Obama administration, officials prioritized the deportation of serious violence offenders.
“We need to be aware of the government’s policies towards immigrants because some of our students are immigrants: documented and undocumented,” professor Jo Anne Greon said. “Some are under DACA, some aren’t. They have a right to their education and we have a duty to provide them with that education. I’m not sure that everybody knows that they attend our colleges legally.”
On Feb. 21, President Trump broadened the types of undocumented Americans that were to be deported. Although DREAMers are exempt from deportation, it’s questionable whether this will be the policy moving forward.
On March 1, DREAMer Daniela Vargas, 22, spoke about her family’s detention at a Mississippi political rally. As she left the political rally, she was arrested. Her DACA exemption expired on Feb. 28. She was expected to be deported to Argentina, a country she hasn’t been to since the age of 7. She was released from a detention center on March 10.
Concerns about possible ICE detention are spreading at Pierce.
In an email sent to Pierce employees, Greon wrote that posters have been put up around Washington State University’s campus about undocumented immigrants.
The posters read, “It is your civic duty to report any illegal aliens to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement”, and leaves a number for people to call the ICE hotline to report undocumented immigrants.
Greon explained to faculty that some may be unaware this isn’t their legal duty as citizens.
“Please know that it’s not our civic duty to report anybody and we have not broken the law if we do not report,” Greon said. “Our presidents and chancellor have signed (a) letter to Trump, supporting immigrant students and highlighting a welcoming environment.”
The letter sent to President Trump urges him to not eliminate DACA, as many students in college don’t have connections to their “country of origin” because they entered the U.S. at a young age.
If an ICE officer detains a student, the officer must have a federal warrant for that student in particular. However, if other undocumented students are found in the process of arresting that student, then other students may be arrested as well. These are often called “ICE raids.”
“We are always trying to remove obstacles to education. Being hunted by ICE, the threat of being separated from family, home, education and country is what some of our students are currently experiencing,” Greon said. “Some are afraid for their loved ones who are undocumented. These fears will, of course, affect their ability to focus and succeed here. And if campus isn’t a safe place, that’s an obstacle to successful education as well.”
If a student was arrested during an ICE raid, they’d likely be taken to Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma. This for-profit detention center is accused by the Justice Department for violating policies corresponding with human rights violations, including improper documentation of injuries sustained within the prison, the blocking of fire safety equipment and unsanitary conditions.
The detention center is owned by The Geo Group, which has recently been accused of forced labor practices. In Aurora, Colo., for example, The Geo Group has been accused of forcing inmates to work for $1 a day or for no pay. An estimated 60,000 former or current inmates who may receive reparations from a class action lawsuit.
President Trump’s stance on immigration brings relief to some while distress for others.
“I personally like Trump’s stance on immigration,” student Tabita Dejeu said. “He’s not anti-immigration. He, like many of us, want to know who’s in this country. He wants people to do it legally.”
However, Pierce is trying to push to allow students to complete their education within the United States – documented or undocumented.
“All employees and students need to know that it is not our responsibility to report anybody, that Gov. Jay Inslee is trying to block ICE sweeps and that our own college presidents and chancellor have signed letters to the POTUS asking him to support our undocumented students and allow them to safely complete their education,” Greon said. “The role of faculty toward DACA and undocumented students is the same as for any other student – help them succeed.”
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