By Karla Casique
The results of the election caused programs that have been ignored at the University of Maryland, such as UndocuTerp Training, to be brought into the spotlight.
The training program started in spring semester of 2014 and is focused on educating the university’s faculty and staff about undocumented students and their realities. Given once a month by Yvette Lerma Jones, who is the Latinx and Undocumented Student Involvement and Advocacy coordinator at the Multicultural Involvement and Community Advocacy (MICA) office, the program is starting to expand due to the increased interest after the results of the presidential election.
“Undocumented students have been in Maryland for probably over a decade, if not longer,” Lerma Jones said. “The DREAM Act is now beyond five years, which means you should have some answers. How are these answers not coming up?”
The DREAM Act is a Maryland in-state tuition law passed in 2012 that grants in-state tuition to any student regardless of their citizenship status in a two-year community college or a four-year university. It is different than Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an immigration policy that gives undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. before they were 16 authorization to work legally in the U.S, have a means of identification and a two-year period of deferred action from being deported.
The majority of people are not aware of the differences between these policies, or even of their existence.
This is the mission of UndocuTerp training: to answer questions and guide faculty and staff in the steps to take if an undocumented student approaches them with a certain question or situation.
Because the two policies and their differences are not commonly known, undocumented students may feel nervous or uncomfortable approaching professors with questions concerning the policies.
“It’s essential for me and other members of our campus community who teach to understand more the specific constraints that in this case, undocumented and DACAmented students face in our classrooms and on the campus space,” said Christina Getrich, an anthropology professor at the university.
“I started the training when I realized that people didn’t have the answers to some of the questions that I had,” said Lerma Jones. “Institutions are built in ways that make us have to prioritize things, and what often gets left out is serving and focusing on populations that … don’t necessarily bring funding in the same ways that other populations might.”
She highlighted how people often compare undocumented students to veteran students because it requires the same campus-wide collaboration in terms of education about what the students need and the resources to aid them in emotional, physical and mental help.
The comparison is incorrect in some ways due to the rhetoric surrounding both populations and the scholarships and federal aid that they receive. Undocumented students cannot receive Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and can only apply for scholarships that are specifically for them.
Though there are roughly 100 undocumented students accounted for at this university, there are many that are unaccounted for, said Delims Umanzor, the Maryland and Washington, D.C., contact for AmeriCorps VISTA Member.
In order to respond to the demand of having more training sessions, people who are well-versed in immigration reform and undocumented immigrant issues will start being trained by Lerma Jones, who will lead the sessions next year.
On Dec. 8, MICA and the Asian American Studies Program (AAST) launched a website aimed specifically for undocumented students. It has all the current resources for UndocuTerps and links for those interested in learning more about getting involved. One of them is UndocuTerp training, showcasing the two sessions that are given.
This is a good first step in serving undocumented students.
“There’s work to be done in terms of UMD making sure they protect all their students. It doesn’t matter their background or status. I mean, we should all protect the students that come to campus because we all pay to be on campus to have our education,” Umanzor said.
Featured Photo Credit: During the UMD walkout on Nov. 17, students held up signs advocating for immigrants being welcomed at this university. (Joe Duffy/Bloc Photographer)
Karla Casique is a junior journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.