A Chapman law professor estimates that fewer than 10 Chapman students are recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, but Dean of Students Jerry Price said that the university doesn’t keep a list of its recipients in case it is ever subpoenaed by the government.
Lidieth Arevalo, a Chapman graduate student, is one of those recipients. She travelled to the U.S. from her home country, El Salvador, when she was 13. Despite facing an uncertain future in the U.S. after President Donald Trump ordered an end to DACA Sept. 5, Arevalo isn’t afraid of what may happen to her status in this country.
“I’m not really fearful, because I was able to survive prior to DACA and I’m pretty sure I can survive after DACA,” Arevalo said. “I grew up in the shadows, but once I came out of the shadows and acknowledged and embraced my identity, in a way something changed within me and I became more open.”
DACA is an immigration policy created by former president Barack Obama in 2012 that allows nearly 800,000 undocumented people who were illegally brought to the U.S. as children to have the opportunity to work, study and obtain a driver’s license.
The university doesn’t maintain a list of undocumented students or DACA recipients because, if the university is subpoenaed, administrators do not want to be obligated to provide records, Price said.
“If immigration were to come in and say, ‘We want a list of all your students who are undocumented,’ we don’t want to have such a list because if we had it, we’d have to produce it,” said Price, who President Daniele Struppa assigned to serve as the point of contact for students affected by DACA.
Marisa Cianciarulo, the associate dean of academic affairs at the Fowler School of Law who specializes in immigration law, predicts that the number of undocumented students at Chapman is likely in the single digits.
“I know the number of students who are undocumented at Chapman is a lot lower than, for example, in the (University of California) system, where there are thousands,” Cianciarulo said.
Price said three to four students have approached him for advice related to DACA in the past six months.
“The thing I think we’re going to see much more common is students who are affected indirectly. In other words, they may have legal status, but their siblings don’t or their significant other doesn’t, or their cousin doesn’t,” Price said. “I talked to more students who have concerns about the undocumented status of family than them directly.”
Since DACA recipients, also known as “Dreamers,” may lose their status beginning March 5 according to the Los Angeles Times, Price said the school has been encouraging “Dreamers” to file for an extension as soon as possible if their status expires in the next six months. The school is also planning to host clinics to help students who are filing paperwork.
Arevalo considers it comforting that her DACA status doesn’t expire until 2019, the year she is expecting to earn her master’s degree and will likely be able to finish earning her master’s degree.
“I feel the pressure and get anxiety, and all those emotions really can distract you from focusing on school, so I’m going to try my best to not let that happen to me, because I know I’ve let that happen to me before,” Arevalo said.
Within the next six months, the status of DACA and its recipients will be up to Congress, however, Price said most students who may be affected have already been prepared.
“(DACA being repealed has) been a very likely development, or at least a very probable development for a while, so I think students know the resources, but still, we want to get others out there and there’s a lot out there,” Price said.
Struppa emailed a letter of support for undocumented students to the Chapman community after the plans to repeal DACA were announced Sept. 5.
“While we have not yet analyzed the impact of (Trump’s) decision, we want to reiterate and assure you that Chapman University stands behind each of its students and employees whose families face challenges due to identity or immigration status,”
Struppa wrote in the email.
Arevalo said she felt reassured by Struppa’s email.
“When I got the email from President Struppa, it was very comforting. I feel like we are almost nonexistent in the university, yet he addresses us and it felt really good,” Arevalo said. “This is a big school in a way, but also there’s that connection with students and professors, so I feel really safe in that regard.”
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