Has ASU lived up to the promises it made to DACA students?

The University offered financial and legal help to its DACA students last September

As anxiety continues for ASU's DACA students, the University has made it clear that it plans to stand behind recipients of the besieged program, which was enacted by an Obama Administration executive order and protects undocumented people brought to the country as children from deportation.

After Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the rescission of DACA on Sept. 5, ASU President Michael Crow wrote a letter to DACA recipients at ASU making several promises to protect and aid them. 

He wrote that the University would work with the Arizona congressional delegation and business community to enact a permanent legislative replacement for the program, connect DACA recipients with free legal counsel, fundraise for their financial aid should their in-state tuition expire and work with international universities who might be able to help the students.

DACA advocates, Congressional Democrats and a handful of Republicans are pushing for a “clean” Dream Act, which would set the nearly 800,000 DACA recipients on a path to permanent citizenship, without any trade-offs like funding for a southern border wall or a strengthening of immigration law and enforcement.

With neither party yielding much ground, the passage of the Dream Act in the near future seems unlikely. But while lawmakers argue and confront other legislative issues, ASU's administration said it's continuing to provide the DACA community with resources they need.

In an interview with The State Press editorial board, Michael Crow said University representatives are "arguing for a resolution with every last breath," but the political bartering in Washington continues to drag on, making it hard to find a permanent solution.

The State Press was unable to reach ASU lobbyists or staff from the Office of Government and Community Engagement in time for publication.

Perla Martinez Lugo, a computer science freshman, said that she’s yet to see ASU make visible efforts to communicate with lawmakers and push for a legislative solution. As a DACA student, she hasn’t received any messages or seen any evidence of ASU actively lobbying.

In an emailed statement, University spokesperson Bret Hovell said that ASU has lobbyists in Washington advocating for the passage of a "comprehensive bill" that would give legal status to these students. Crow, Hovell said, has supported the Dream Act since its introduction in 2010 and that passing a bill that guarantees the legal status of this group of students is a "top priority." 

"Arizona State University's commitment to DACA students and to all Dreamers remains unchanged," Hovell said in the statement.

"It is based on the core principle set forth in ASU's charter that we are "measured not by whom we exclude, but rather by whom we include and how they succeed."

But David Montenegro, a secondary education sophomore, still feels excluded from the conversation. Montenegro came to the US at the age of 11, and getting university aid is vital to him continuing his education, he said. Montenegro has been working since he was 12 and has gone from household to household, job to job, to hold onto his dreams of becoming a professional boxer.

Once he realized that his dream is impossible with out proper documentation, he then turned to a path of education and got himself through community college and his freshman year of ASU all on his own. Despite the University's efforts, Montenegro still feels unconvinced by its gestures and remains anxious about the future of his legal status.

“That letter Michael Crow sent — it’s a nice thought, but it doesn’t do much," Montenegro said. "I’m sure a lot of other DACA recipients (have) fear and uncertainty.” 

Regarding financial aid, Crow said that ASU has a number of financial aid packages that the University is “raising and developing” for DACA recipients. The University provides aid primarily through private donors and organizations such as Dream US and United We Dream, Lugo said.

Listen: The Forks Estate: ASU students are speaking out about DACA and the DREAM Act

She said that although ASU works with Dream US and other private donors, it’s hard to find financial aid from the University itself because of the gray area of their citizenship.

“ASU doesn’t really have any scholarships to offer DACA recipients, because they don’t qualify for them because it’s a public institution," he said.

State Rep. Paul Mosley, R-Lake Havasu City, said Crow’s efforts to help DACA students are “valiant,” but he thinks it might be a “waste of resources” to allocate money for Dreamers if there is not a “delineated” path to citizenship. More than anything, he said “this is more of a federal issue than a state issue.”

Mosley said that if DACA recipients really want a path to citizenship, “they have to tone down their rhetoric and want to become American and want to be here and follow the law.”

Although it is a complicated mess in Washington, Crow said ASU will continue to support the DACA students ASU has and the DACA students coming in to be successful in every possible way.

In terms of legal assistance, Hovell wrote that ASU has facilitated legal advice for DACA students by connecting them with legal counsel "who could help them file their extensions, and many took advantage of that resource."

"The University also hosted events where free legal advice was provided," and DACA students with questions were referred to outside lawyers who can help for free, Hovell said.

Read more: ASU partners with foundations to cover students' DACA renewal costs

                        ASU hosts DACA informational workshop

Petra Falcon the executive director of Promise Arizona, said that ASU has done a lot for DACA students and “they’ve made sure that any Dreamer that wants to go to ASU gets to do so.”

Promise Arizona went to ASU’s law school to recruit volunteers to assist with community information sessions and provide legal support to DACA applicants. They have also worked with Los Abogados, Arizona's Hispanic Bar Association. 

Most of the legal work they do includes helping with the application process to ensure that a “clean” application is sent in so the applicants can avoid red flags and to make DACA recipients and applicants aware of their rights, if anyone were to violate them.

“(We are) making sure that somebody is reviewing your application, because when you renew, people might think that it’s simple, but it’s not. We have to make sure that applicant is not going to be turned away,” Falcon said.

Editor's Note: The State Press was unable to get comment containing more detail on the extent of monetary or legal ASU aid provided to DACA students in time for publication. 

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly spelled Rep. Paul Mosley's name. His name is Paul Mosley, not Paul Mosely.


Reach the reporter at ajmistry@asu.edu or follow @jay_mistry52 on Twitter.

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