Speakers examine obstacles that undocumented immigrants face in higher education
Undocumented immigrants often face challenges in attaining a college education, including fluctuating immigration law, rising costs associated with becoming a citizen and varying admittance policies for private and public institutions, a panel of speakers said on Wednesday.
Private institutions offer undocumented students an advantage because they are able to accept whichever students they please, while some public institutions are legally barred from admitting undocumented immigrants, Associate Director of Admissions Marina Offner told students at the discussion.
In fact, Brandeis University has most likely been accepting undocumented students for most of its history, Offner theorized. She added that there was no official University policy governing the admittance of undocumented students until 2012, when Senior Vice President for Students and Enrollment Andrew Flagel enacted a policy on the matter. According to this policy, undocumented students are reviewed as domestic applicants, but are provided aid as international students, as their immigration status prevents them from receiving state aid.
“Events like this are a part of what I love about Brandeis. We’re an elite university without being elitist,” Offner said, reflecting on the discussion.
Undocumented students face added barriers with the United States’ precarious immigration policy, Offner said. While President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals program grants undocumented immigrants legal status if they entered the country as minors, the policy is tied to Obama’s presidency, and the upcoming election could topple the program. If the program is cancelled or altered significantly, it could result in all those who applied for it being considered illegal immigrants, thereby putting them at risk of deportation, Offner added. Moreover, the deportation process would be even easier, as the government would have access to immigrants’ addresses, schools and employment information based off of the applications, she said.
Additionally, the cost of immigration lawyers, as well as document, filing and visa fees, can quickly add up, said Santiago Montoya ’19, himself an immigrant from Colombia. Montoya explained that his father paid over $30,000 in the process of obtaining a green card.
Montoya also touched upon the Brandeis Immigration Education Initiative, which offers support for immigrant students at the University. The club has been the target of several acts of vandalism within the last year, Montoya told students.
Specifically, a BIEI art installation featuring the silhouettes of immigrants was vandalized last year, while some flyers for the event were torn down. “I’m disturbed by the vandalism of the silhouettes that BIEI put up. Even though so much has been accomplished at Brandeis, awareness hasn’t completely permeated the culture yet. BIEI is the connector; having a student group to raise awareness bridges the gap,” said Marci McPhee, the director of campus programs at the International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life, in a follow up interview with the Justice.