With the collaborations of student clubs and faculty, student senate held MCTC’s Dreamer Forum on Wednesday, Nov. 29 at 3 p.m. in T building.
The forum was started by student senate representative Yvonne Hernandez, student senate Vice President Jazer Mauricio and student senate’s Director of health and sustainability Abraham Rizvi. These students joined with other students, clubs and faculty to create an informative event concerning the realities of what it means to be a Dreamer.
“We want to let everyone know that this is a safe space, everyone is welcome and to please help us keep it that way,” Hernandez said, mentioning the hashtag #MCTCDreamers created specifically for this event.
The event panelists included MCTC President Dr. Sharon Pierce, MCTC Director of Diversity Dr. Jay Williams, community-based lawyer Susana De Leon, Executive Director of the Minnesota Council on Latino Affairs Henry Jimenez, Executive Director of the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota John Keller; and Rev. Tony Suarez, a part of the Faith Advisory Board for the White House, though Suarez was ultimately absent from the event due to a missed flight. It was shared that he was to provide a letter that explained his perspective on the questions posed to the panelists that evening. In his absence, Keller, De Leon and Jiminez expressed disapproval of Suarez’s support for President Trump.
Dreamers are individuals that are undocumented childhood arrivals to the United States. The DREAM Act, introduced in the Senate in 2001, is intended to create pathways for undocumented minors to acquire conditional residency and eventually to attain permanent citizenship. The bill has been proposed several times since 2001 and has failed to pass.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals is an Executive Order enacted during the Obama Administration on June 15, 2012. Working on an application basis, it prevented the deportation and ability to apply for a work permit to undocumented immigrants that were younger than 31 on the day of its implementation. The applier also had to have been under 16 when they arrived to the U.S. as well as have lived here since 2007. In September of this year, the Trump administration rescinded DACA.
As the event began, several students gave personal accounts, citing the challenges they face because they are DACA recipients.
José Madrigal is an MCTC student that will be graduating from the Nursing program on December 16.
“Although this is a great accomplishment, I’m not as excited as my fellow classmates who will graduate with me,”Madrigal said, expressing his frustrations of knowing he will be a registered nurse in January. “Even though I’ve been offered several job opportunities, I will be a registered nurse who will not be able to apply for jobs because of the lack of a work permit.”
Karina Vega, Jazer Mauricio and Mai Jonapa each gave their own unique accounts as well.
One of the questions posed to the panelists was what they thought Minnesota could do to further support DACA students.
“Let’s simplify the financial aid for every student that needs and wants an education in Minnesota. That’s my message to the legislature here [in Minnesota],” Jimenez said.
Keller echoed Jimenez’s sentiments, as well.
“As Henry mentioned, we can, and should, fully fund the Minnesota DREAM Act and take away the Pell Grant exclusion or penalty,” Keller said.
The idea that DACA only affects minors was highlighted by Dr. Williams.
“One thing, another federal initiative didn’t pass – states can seek to establish something like DAPA [Deferred Action for Parenthood Arrivals] too, or argue for it’s existence, to protect the parents of arrivals, and to keep families intact,” Dr. Williams said.
Dr. Williams also agreed with Keller and Jimenez on the status of student loans.
“Let’s fix the student loans through the DREAM Act. You have to have a citizen as a cosigner,” Dr. Williams said. “Well, if you’re in DACA, the people who will most likely be your cosigners are your parents. If they were citizens, you wouldn’t be in DACA, so it’s almost like a false promise. We can do better than that, and make it more equitable.”