On Tuesday morning, President Donald Trump formally rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, causing uncertainty and worry for many undocumented students such as sophomore Valeria Resendiz.
“My mom just always told me to not tell anyone about my status because she was afraid people would find out,” Resendiz said. “My parents always tried to keep information from us because they believed that the more we knew that the more it would put us in a vulnerable position.”
President Max C. L. Nikias issued a statement to the USC community on Monday in response to the impending announcement on the DACA program, an immigration policy implemented under the administration of former President Barack Obama in June 2012. The legislation allows certain undocumented immigrants who entered the country as minors to receive a renewable two-year period of relief from deportation and eligibility for a work permit.
“USC is committed to continuing to work closely with all of our students to ensure that we are meeting their financial and academic needs, particularly those needs that might arise from changes in DACA,” Nikias said in the letter.
However, the rescinding still creates an unclear future for almost 800,000 young adults who are at risk for deportation — some of whom attend USC.
Nikias emphasized his own personal experience in the letter, as both he and his wife immigrated to the U.S., and the impact that American higher education had on his life.
Provost Michael Quick released a memorandum on DACA last week, outlining the legal and financial resources available to students who are DACA recipients. In the memo, Quick tasked Assistant Dean of Religious Life Vanessa Gomez Brake with “navigating and facilitating support resources” at the campus cultural centers. In addition, he pointed students toward the Gould Legal Immigration Clinic and the Financial Aid Office to address any financial or legal conflicts that may come as a result of the decision.
“I want to reaffirm our unequivocal support for everyone in our community, regardless of immigration status or national origin,” Quick wrote in the memo. “We remain committed to our shared values of diversity, inclusion, and non-discrimination.”
Resendiz was born in Mexico but came to the United States when she was less than one year old. Resendiz says she has faced a lot of emotional stress because of her undocumented status. As for the future, Resendiz feels unclear.
“I would like that Congress comes up with something permanent that could find a way to make an immigration reform that would allow everyone an equal chance and the equal opportunities they deserve,” Resendiz said.
For most undocumented and minority students, the cultural centers, such as Asian Pacific American Student Services (APASS), El Centro Chicano and the Center for Black Cultural and Student Affairs (CBCSA) are a safe haven and a home away from home.
APASS Director Jonathan Wang said the DACA decision hits close to home in the Asian American community.
“[The DACA] decision now has created an environment that is unsafe and reinforces that there is a type of person that the government is focusing on as allowable or as a American,” Wang said.
Statistics show that one in 10 Asian Americans are undocumented, Wang said. He said many of these students are now left confused and wary about what the future looks like.
“I think that overall there is a sense of uneasiness as to how the next six months will look like and whether they will be able to apply,” Wang said. “Six months from now we are not sure what the future looks like. For a lot of these students, parents and communities place a lot of hope on their students being here, and now there are a lot of concerns.”
Marbella Pleitez, a junior studying political economy, felt anxious and conflicted upon hearing the news on DACA. Pleitez was born in El Salvador and came to the United States when she was 8 years old.
“I never knew that being undocumented was going to be a barrier, until I got to college,” Pleitez said. “I faced the language barrier, and I also had to get adjusted to the environment.”
At a young age, Pleitez was confident about her enrollment at a university one day. But, if it wasn’t for DACA, Pleitez acknowledged she wouldn’t be at USC.
“What would the U.S do without immigrants? Who is going to work in the fields? No — the U.S is in need of us.” Pleitez said.