Silver City, NM- A good percentage of the student population at Western New Mexico University attend the University due in no small part to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration policy, also known as DACA. DACA is a policy put in place by President Obama that allows undocumented immigrants between the ages of 16 and 30 years of age to obtain a valid drivers license, secure legal employment, and attend institutes for higher learning. It’s important to note that these immigrants didn’t necessarily cross the border illegally, but instead could have come to the United States as tourists or with student visas and chose to remain. Under the DACA program, an undocumented immigrant is protected from deportation for two years, with the option to apply for renewal. All an undocumented immigrant needs to do is apply for entry into the DACA program through the office of US Citizenship and Immigration Services.
In recent months, the DACA program has been threatened with the change in government. While President Trump has expressed a more sympathetic stance when it comes to DACA recipients, calling them “incredible kids,” there have been calls from several state attorney generals to end DACA. On Tuesday, a six-month delay on the decision is believed to be announced in hopes that congress can find a means to fix the program to where all parties are satisfied.
A number of students at Western New Mexico University benefit from the DACA program, including Dayana Baez, a student previously featured in The Mustang.
“Being a ‘DACA-mented’ student has made it possible for me to live like an everyday American to a certain extent,” Baez said. “I rent a house, I have 2 jobs; one on campus the other one off campus, I bought a car, pay taxes and I’m pursuing my education.”
Baez is a Math Major and currently serves as the President of the WNMU chapter of the National Society of Leadership and Success. Baez reflected on everything she’d achieved through DACA, since receiving her first permit at 16.
“DACA came at a perfect time in my life and drove me to pursue better things because I now had the ability,” Baez said. “If I hadn’t had DACA then I would’ve never pursued higher education because I wouldn’t of had the money to pay for it. I feel like DACA has given me a sense of confidence when it comes to talking about who I really am and where I come from. It’s taught me to be strong in places where I can feel like an outcast, and it’s also made me feel proud of being Mexican instead of making it seem like a burden. All that I have accomplished in the past 5 years has been because of the very important and expensive piece of plastic that I carry in my wallet.”
In November 2016, a petition surfaced online from Pomona College in Claremont, CA calling for University President’s from across the nation to sign and show their support for the DACA Program. The petition highlights the benefits of the DACA program, citing the academic excellence of many DACA students as well as their further contributions to both their communities and to the economy. It claims that many DACA students move on to careers in the medical field or in business or education. It also urges local businesses, civic offices, religious organizations and non-profits to support the DACA program. Over 600 University Presidents have signed the petition, including the Presidents of Columbia University, Yale and even the nearby University of Texas at El Paso. (UTEP) At press time, WNMU has not signed the petition.
More information on the DACA program can be found at on the website for US Citizenship and Immigration Services by clicking on the link here. The petition to preserve the DACA program can be found here.
“US Immigration: DACA and Dreamers Explained” Almasy, S, Shoichet, C.E., Cullinane, S. (2017) CNN.com
“College & University Presidents Call for U.S. to Uphold and Continue DACA” (2016) Pomona.edu