Approaching DACA Deadline Leaves CUNY Dreamers Anxious

Despite shows of solidarity like the student and faculty demonstrations on Sept. 5 (pictured), DACA recipients at CUNY are still anxious about their futures. / Hannah Grossman

Anxiety is growing among the City University of New York’s immigrant students as President Trump ends a form of legal protection that protects children from deportation who came here when they were young.

CUNY students who are recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) say they are pleased with CUNY’s response since the president’s announcement, but some say the university could do more.

The same day President Trump announced he was ending the act, CUNY’s chancellor, James B. Milliken, released a statement emphasizing the university’s commitment to continue supporting those affected.

“We are fully committed to the thousands of CUNY DACA students and will do all we can to support them. They represent some of the most talented and creative voices in the CUNY community and our city,” Chancellor Milliken said. “We will do everything we can to help persuade Congress to shore up support for the DACA community, not undermine it, and CUNY will provide counseling and guidance to help our DACA students with their needs and questions.”

From offering immigration clinics to “providing one of the most extensive university-based legal support program, CUNY Citizenship Now!,” CUNY has shown it is devoted to making its campuses a safe haven for DACA students and immigrants as a whole, but some DACA students say they still feel vulnerable.

“As to ‘feeling safe’, no one, other than President Trump, can guarantee protection from ICE. However, my belief, based on my 40 years of experience in the field, is that CUNY students need not to be worried today than they were last month or last year,” said Allan Wernick, director of CUNY Citizenship Now! and a professor in the law department at Baruch College in an email.

Wernick, seeking to reassure students, said DACA students should have little to worry about as they are in no more danger today than they were.

“I have no reason to believe that ICE will come after CUNY students who have DACA no matter whether the program ends. Certainly, CUNY will do everything it can to protect our students no matter their immigration status,” he said.

Mirella Ramirez, 21, a DACA student studying at  John Jay, was brought here when she was nine from Mexico. Because of DACA, she has been able to work and pay for her school. She has also been able to win prestigious fellowships as a result.

“I’ve been able to, like, get jobs which has allowed me to, like, contribute to paying my tuition,” Ramirez said. “I do pay out of pocket so having an internship is great,” she added.

Others said they are appreciative of CUNY’s support but the university could do more in terms of increasing awareness of the immigration services they provide. They said the help is available but many undocumented immigrants are unaware of them. But creating a centralized immigration resource center where all immigrants can go for assistance will help the situation.

“The help is there,” said Isaac Montiel, 28, of City Tech and the president of CUNY Dreamers— a student run organization which helps bring together CUNY DACA students to talk about issues facing them. Montiel, also from Mexico, was brought here by his parents when he was 13. He said “if they [CUNY] have a centralized office where students can go and get this information, it will definitely help.”

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