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Advocates hold forum for undocumented students concerned about Trump administration

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Oscar Teran presents on how to support undocumented students and members of the Chapman community post-election Dec. 13. Photo by Bonnie Cash
Photo by Bonnie Cash

Advocates for undocumented students encouraged staff and faculty to support students who might be affected by future immigration legislation under President-elect Donald Trump.

The open forum, held at the Fish Interfaith Center Dec. 13, was hosted by about 60 faculty members and students from departments all over campus and was the first of many proposed forums that will cover topics about students with undocumented status.

“Before the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), there was a very real threat of being deported,” said ‘05 alumnus Oliver Lopez, who helped lead the meeting alongside ‘04 alumnus Oscar Teran. “And now that DACA is on the chopping block, it’s bringing back that fear.”

DACA is an immigration policy set by Barack Obama in 2012 that protects undocumented immigrants who entered the country as minors from immediate deportation.

Teran and Lopez proposed three support groups, listed as “External Support,” “Allies on Campus” and “Financial Support,” each targeting different aspects of how the loss of DACA could negatively affect students.

Teran said students should consider the worst-case scenario.

“(Deportation) is not something that should ever catch a student off-guard,” Teran said. “They need to put a certain amount of thought into this.”

Director of Undergraduate Admission Marcela Mejia-Martinez said that she does not know the exact number of undocumented students at Chapman, and admissions does not intend to compile a list, though she estimates that about 30 students will be affected.

“I’ve been looking forward to the opportunity to make an open statement about my experiences,” said Lopez, who was undocumented until a year ago. “And now, with the very real threat of having something taken away, like DACA, that’s so transformative, I can understand that that’s a very difficult situation and reality to live. And, for me to just say, to anyone that’s living that reality to say I’m here and I will stand with you.”

Professor Julie Marzouk, who teaches the Family Protection Clinic Immigration seminar at the Bette and Wylie Aitken Family Protection Clinic, said that although the actual undocumented population at Chapman may be relatively small, the real impact on students will most likely be from their families.

“Their education is impacted if they are fearful of family members being deported,” Marzouk said.

Almost 190 colleges have designated themselves as “sanctuary campuses,” and many more are in the process of petitioning, according to information from English professor Ian Barnard. However, Teran said Chapman will not be doing so because the status has no legal standing and may instigate more problems for the students Chapman is trying to protect by drawing attention to the campus and its undocumented population.

Barnard, who thinks that Chapman should declare itself a sanctuary campus, disagreed.

“This is extremely disappointing, and shows a lack of leadership at a time when we need to be courageous,” Barnard wrote in an email.

Barnard said that making this statement could send the message that the school refuses to work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

Dean of Students Jerry Price said that the focus will be on what Chapman staff and faculty can do for the individual students on a day-to-day basis.

“I was just super happy they brought everyone together and made this an issue we’re discussing. I do feel like I belong a lot more now,” said Kevin Moreno, a junior economics and software engineer major who has loved ones who could be affected by the immigration policies of the Trump administration.

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