Undocumented student and ally group IDEAS at USC has pushed for undocumented students to have an official go-to space on campus.
Now, the University is moving toward making that resource a reality.
Last week, the American Studies and Ethnicity Department approved adding a “pop-up DREAMer Center” in Kaprielian Hall to aid undocumented students. Its name is a reference to the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, which would have given undocumented students who met certain requirements a chance to become permanent residents if it had passed through Congress.
“We knew we wanted an official space that could provide a one-stop shop that can meet all the needs that all the undocumented students have,” said Ana Mercado, one of the IDEAS’ executive chairs.
Mercado said she began to work with her professor George Sanchez from the American Studies department about her idea for a University-wide DREAMers Center, and he agreed to help.
“We had been working with the faculty resistance to get that up and going, but we weren’t getting the type of response that we wanted from them,” Mercado said. “We drafted a proposal of tangible steps that different departments on campus can take to support undocumented students … they didn’t really do much with our proposal.”
Sanchez submitted IDEAS at USC’s proposal to the ASE faculty. At their Monday meeting, the faculty unanimously approved starting a center on their own.
The pop-up DREAMers Center will open on the fourth floor of Kaprielian Hall within the next two weeks, Sanchez said.
It will hold office hours for Vanessa Gomez-Brake, the provost-appointed point of contact for immigration issues, and will allow undocumented students to access information on all the resources the University offers.
Sanchez said he has worked with many undocumented students in the past, but following President Donald Trump’s decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program earlier this month, he has seen the stress of the undocumented population on campus increase.
“It’s really helpful because I know there’s a lot of students here at USC that haven’t come out yet as an undocumented students, so I think it’ll be really cool for them to have a space where they feel comfortable and meet other undocumented students who have already opened up about their status,” said Ana Barrios, a senior majoring in contemporary Latino and Latin American studies and psychology.
Barrios is one of the many USC students studying under the DACA program.
Along with providing resources for undocumented students, Sanchez also hopes to send a message with the opening of the makeshift center.
“Every other campus in California has one, and we think that if the University doesn’t move in that direction, then every department at the University should have one,” Sanchez said. “Everything took enormous amounts of effort. Other universities have moved much more quickly. We just feel like this University moves way too slowly.”
Sanchez said that IDEAS at USC is grateful for what the University has done to support undocumented immigrants, but that they will not “sit around and wait” for more action.
“American Studies and Ethnicity has a long-standing commitment to the inclusion of all students and faculty of all backgrounds,” Sanchez said. “We think this is a vital issue that starts at the heart of whether all students are an equal part of the Trojan Family.”