ISU Seeks To Provide Safety For Undocumented Students | WGLT

ISU Seeks To Provide Safety For Undocumented Students

Mar 8, 2017

Trump administration policies on immigrants have led to angry protests across the country.
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Illinois State University is not officially a "sanctuary campus," but plans to remain a safe haven for undocumented students.

That's according to education administration Professor Beth Hatt and Latin American studies Director Maura Toro-Morn. The two are co-founders of CAUSA, the Committee Assisting Undocumented Student Achievement.

"ISU is not officially a sanctuary campus, but I do believe there are ways that the university wants to be supportive of all students and not wanting students to fear that university police are going to seek them out," Hatt said on GLT's Sound Ideas.

"There is an attempt to have as much of a safe climate as  possible," she added.

Under new, stricter Trump administration deportation policies, some school systems have announced that they will not allow immigration agents or other law enforcement officers to enter their property without a criminal warrant. ISU has not announced it will follow suit. 

"We are not a sanctuary campus because it is not really clear what a sanctuary campus is," Toro-Morn said.

She said, however, that one of the reasons CAUSA was formed was to prepare ISU "for what we anticipate will be significant struggles in the two or three years ahead of us."

Toro-Morn said CAUSA has communicated with ISU President Larry Dietz, and that administration officials have expressed support for CAUSA and for fostering a campus atmosphere "that is inclusive of all diversity."

Hatt said she knows of only about 20 to 30 undocumented students at ISU, but that exact numbers are hard to come by. Students do not have to report their immigration status unless they apply for an in-state tuition discount.

"I would say the numbers are much higher for students who are U.S. citizens and here with an undocumented parent," Hatt said.

Toro-Morn said even immigrant students who are here legally are experiencing anxiety. Many have legal status under the Obama administration's executive action known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.

The action aimed to help so-called Dreamers, immigrants who were brought here as children by their parents and have grown up knowing mostly American culture.

"Now you have this broad cloth being draped over our immigrant communities.There is a constant vilification, there is a constant dismissal, there is a constant stereotyping of Latinos and immigrants in general as criminals, as terrorists, as a menace," Toro-Morn, a native of Puerto Rico, said.

"As a consequence, all of us are fearing this sense of vilification, whether you are a a citizen or not."

Hatt and Toro-Morn said many ISU students come from families with mixed immigration status. So even if students are legal -- or were born in the U.S. and are therefore citizens -- they live with the fear that their parents and relatives may be deported. 

"Many are living away from their families and whenever someone is taken by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), they don't get to make a phone call. Suddenly they just don't come home from work, and it can take a few days to figure out where they are being detained," Hatt said.

"And then there are issues if both parents are taken, who is going to manage the finances, have access to the bank accounts, the home, the car?" she added.

"Latino students tend to be very close to their families and any ripple or any threat ... all of those issues are felt very closely among the students," Toro-Morn said.

"So you will see a sense of fear and the emotional restlessness, the inability to be able to focus on work. Perhaps performance on a test is less than desirable because they are thinking about way to many things." 

Many Dreamer students fear eventually losing their legal status, Hatt said.

"There is fear about whether they will be able to continue their education, and also after they graduate , whether they will be able to work?" Hatt said.

She told of a scholarship student whose father was here on a work visa, but eventually lost his position. The family remained in the country illegally. The son has tried to remain on a student visa, but few are available and the wait is long.

"This makes his future so uncertain and he is such a strong student, the  kind of  student we would want at ISU," Hatt said.

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