ASU students should fight for DACA students

Sept. 5 deadline threatens DACA and the safety of undocumented ASU students

This summer marked the fifth anniversary of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which became law via executive order under the Barack Obama Administration.

DACA is designed to protect individuals who immigrated to the U.S. as minors from deportation. It allows them to work and go to school for renewable two-year periods, if they meet certain requirements

But the anti-immigrant attitude seems to be at an all-time high in the United States. President Donald Trump only further aggitated racial tensions when he pardoned former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was found guilty of criminal contempt of court after disobeying a federal court order regarding racial profiling.

Much of Trump's campaign featured xenophobic rhetoric. He even referred to some DACA recipients as “gang members” and “drug dealers.”

Threats to DACA intensified when a group of state attorneys general led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton wrote a letter to Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions urging them to repeal DACA by Sept. 5.

ASU students who are protected under DACA have access to certain resources that documented Arizona residents may take for granted, like a driver’s license and the ability to pay in-state tuition. 

While they are still restricted from certain scholarships and federal aid programs, DACA has changed the lives of young undocumented people here at ASU. 

“(DACA) has completely changed not only my life, but so many peoples’ lives," said Belén Sisa, a political science senior and DACA recipient who founded Undocumented Students for Education Equity. "It turned me into the person I am today. I got so interested in the way politics control my life, even though I have no say in it. I couldn’t vote, I couldn’t run for office, but I wanted to be able to make a change in some way.”

Losing DACA could mean deportation for Belén and 800,000 other young undocumented people. 

“Young people who have lived here their whole lives are going to begin to be deported," she said. "It would be a transition of going back into the shadows, going back into learning how to be undocumented. It’s not impossible, (but) it’s far more dangerous.”  

Belén said she is constantly anxious because of the current administration. 

“That’s our lives," she said. "It’s very hard to plan your life, to think of how you’re going to advance in your career, how you’re going to accomplish all the goals you want to accomplish when there’s constantly the thought in the back of your mind ... that tomorrow everything could change."

Belén and other DACA students founded Undocumented Students for Education Equity in response to these anxieties and to advocate for undocumented students at the University level.

“Right now in Arizona there are about 25,000 DACA recipients, and there are only about 180 students at ASU with DACA. That’s less than 1 percent," Belén said. She called on the University administration to encourage DACA recipients to enroll "and get them to graduation, and stand up for us, and not allow ICE to come to campus and recruit like they have in the past."


Documented ASU students have an obligation to fight back against the xenophobic rhetoric of white supremacy at our university and to protect our friends and neighbors who rely on DACA.

Belén urged students to lobby officials to protect DACA and to advocate for undocumented students in arenas where they would otherwise be silenced.

“Use the privilege that you have to speak in spaces that normally someone who’s undocumented wouldn’t be acknowledged or considered," Belén said. "We’re not just a statistic, we’re not just a number, we’re people, and we have stories, and we have families, and we have lives, and they can’t just be thrown around like some political football as something to be used to criminalize more people.” 


Reach the columnist at maddy.snarr@gmail.com or follow @snarrwhal on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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