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Immigration Leaders Talk Undocumented Students And Higher Education In Second “Dignity Days” Chat

 

Last week, leaders from UWD, NILC, the Domestic Workers Alliance, DRM Action, PHDreamers, Harvard University, and Colorado State University joined our second “Dignity Days” event to discuss undocumented students pursuing higher education.

As Juan Escalante notes, with the successful implementation of DACA, and in-state tuition and financial aid victories in states like Texas, Florida, Connecticut, and Illinois, “higher education has taken an even more pivotal role” within the undocumented youth community.

“More undocumented students are gaining access to the schools of their choice, while others are overcoming challenges in specific career paths.”

The panelists shared their experiences navigating the higher education system as undocumented students, many of whom graduated before the implementation of DACA.

“There was no DACA, the DREAM Act was pretty new, and DREAMer organizations were not a strong as they are now,” said Cesar Vargas of DRM Action, who graduated from City University of New York School of Law in 2011.

“I had to navigate this by myself.”

Vargas said he drew support from faculty and fellow students, and recommends undocumented students reach out to their friends, professors, and advisors for support.

Denisse Rojas, co-founder & Director of PHDreamers, discussed access for undocumented students interested in the medical and health fields.

PHDreamers played a pivotal role in passing a California law that allowed the undocumented community access to professional licenses, including law, nursing, dentistry, and pharmacy licenses.

Growing up an undocumented youth, Rojas said she felt like healthcare was a luxury immigrants weren’t entitled to, and it took an increasingly personal turn when her mom suffered a life-threatening illness. The event pushed her to want to become a medical professional.

Rojas recommends undocumented students interested in medicine and in need of financial assistance apply to private universities with large public endowments. Licensing can be a grey area, however, because states vary on considering medical licenses for undocumented immigrants.

Susana Munoz, Assistant Professor at Colorado State University, noted many universities are now revamping their graduate school applications to include undocumented students, which can help with funding as well.

“One of the things in my journey that I’ve learned is to definitely not to be afraid to ask for help,” said Carolina Valdivia, Ph.D. candidate in Education at Harvard.

“I think that the more that people knew about my story, about my journey, about my passion, about what it is that I want to contribute to my community and other communities as well, is that the more people could help me, either financially or emotionally, whether it was just to listen to me vent, or listen to me and then find somebody else who was in graduate school, things like that, it’s always been really helpful,” she said.

“When I first started college, that was at a time when we didn’t really talk about our immigration status, and I think the activism by undocumented youth was just starting to pick up, and so I wasn’t really as open about talking about my status. But I think that’s changing now.”

A must-watch recording of the virtual conversation, along with a list of resources for undocumented students, below.

A big thanks to leaders and students from UWD, NILC, the Domestic Workers Alliance, DRM Action, PHDreamers, Harvard University, and Colorado State University for joining us.

Law School Resources
For People of Color, Inc.
For People of Color, Inc. (“FPOC”) provided free, high-quality law school admissions consulting services to thousands of prospective law school applicants for more than a decade. FPOC is widely recognized as a leader in its efforts to diversify the profession.

The DREAM Bar Association
The DREAM Bar Association rovides resources and conferences at various law school campuses informing people of the law school application process.

Grad School Resources
(CA specific) Undocugrads Conference on August 1st, 2015 at UC Merced
This year’s conference will be held in Merced, CA on August 1, 2015. The conference (by, and for undocumented youth) provides helpful information and resources about the graduate school and professional school process.

Educators For Fair Consideration: Life After College Guide
While initially it may seem as though undocumented students have limited options upon graduating from college, this guide is intended to shed light on the possibilities that do exist. The guide has been written to be as inclusive and comprehensive as possible by including personal narratives, student testimonials and advice from experts.

Graduates Reaching a Dream Deferred (GRADD)
GRADD was founded by undocumented graduate students and Labor Center interns in 2010 to address the needs of immigrant students interested in pursuing graduate education. GRADD works to establish a national network of students, faculty members, and community leaders dedicated to bringing resources and attention to this underserved student population. Through the creation of an inclusive and safe environment, GRADD works to reassure students that their academic and professional goals are achievable.

DREAM Educational Empowerment Program (DEEP)
DEEP seeks to lay the groundwork that advances the educational justice movement in the U.S. by focusing resources and research on the needs and realities of immigrant students in order to increase educational attainment rates. Resources provided by DEEP include: “DACA Guide for Teachers”, “Tuition Equity Map”, “Just Ask! Which College Is Right for You?”, “Graduate! A Financial Aid Guide to Success”, and much more!

Educators 4 Fair Consideration
E4FC offers an array of programs and services that holistically address the needs of undocumented young people through direct support, leadership and career development, community outreach and education, creative expression, and advocacy. E4FC has a number of guides, including: “DACA Guide”, “Got DACA? Now What?”, scholarships lists, educator guides, and more!

My Documented Life Blog
Carolina is an undocumented graduate student. In her personal blog, you will learn more about her experiences, graduate school-related advice/resources, activism, research, as well as opportunities available to undocumented students such as scholarships and internships.

Medical School & Health Field Resources
Pre-Health Dreamers
Are you undocumented and thinking about a career in the science or health field? Check out Pre-Health Dreamers, a network that investigates and shares information on career pathways for pre-health undocumented students as well as advocates for more progressive institutional and governmental policies for undocumented students.

Scholarship Information
The National Immigration Law Center: Education Toolkit
Compiled by the National Immigration Law Center, this toolking includes a resources on financial aid and scholarships for students regardless of immigration status .

Educators For Fair Consideration: Scholarships
With the help of students, educators and parents such as yourself, in the past year alone, these scholarship guides have been accessed over 60,000 times, and are used all across the United States. Together with E4FC’s other educational materials, these scholarship guides are a significant resource for undocumented students as they carve their own paths through higher education.