With DACA’s termination, the “Know Your Rights” workshop offered support to hurting individuals on campus

A poster at the “Know Your Rights” workshop. (Photo courtesy of Kristin Miller)

Students of various backgrounds filled Wilden 230 to participate in a panelist-lead workshop discussing the rights of undocumented persons Tuesday, Sept. 19. It also addressed what privileges will be lost under the Trump administration’s recent decision to terminate the Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals program (DACA).

The workshop was facilitated by APU’s Student Center of Reconciliation and Diversity (SCRD) with the intention to create a space where students were able to walk away with the resources they need to protect family members, friends, loved ones and their own agency.

“We felt like it was our responsibility to make a commitment to meet needs,” Associate Director of SCRD Kristine Cody said. “Based upon the Trump administration’s decision earlier this month to end the DACA program, we thought it would only be appropriate to provide tangible resources for our DACA and our undocumented students and also help our entire APU community be more educated on this topic.”

DACA was established as an executive order under the Obama administration in 2012. It gave undocumented persons who came into the United States as minors, with no criminal background protection from deportation and granted work authorizations among other opportunities. Nearly 800,000 people were protected under DACA.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions stated earlier this year in a press conference that the establishment of DACA was an “unconstitutional exercise by the authority of the executive branch.” He claimed the democratic leaders initiated the policy unilaterally in opposition to the legislative branch who had rejected numerous similar proposals.

Attorney state generals in Texas and ten other states threatened to sue the Trump Administration if they did not rescind DACA by Sept. 5, 2017.

The legislative branch has until March 5 to come up with a new immigration or DACA plan. Individuals who have a DACA card that expires between Sept. 5 and March 5, can renew. Individuals whose card expires before or after this date are subject to penalties.

“I’m at risk of losing everything,” a DACA recipient serving on the panel said (their identity is being withheld for safety). “I cannot renew, so I really don’t know what is going to happen––I’m hoping that politics will clear itself out and provide us with additional resources.”

Jonathan Fung, a panelist and expert in the field of undocumented populations, informed the audience that it’s not easy to fix the paperwork of undocumented persons.

The DACA program itself is based on a deferred action two-year plan that requires renewal every two years. If caught by deportation officers with expired identification showing the individual has surpassed their stay by one year the individual has the potential of being deported and denied access to enter the U.S. for 10 years.

Fung was adamant about people knowing their rights when it comes to dealing with law enforcement, especially as arrests and detentions are on the rise.

“You have the right to remain silent, you may refuse to speak to immigration officers, that’s not only a right that you can exercise, it’s a right that you should exercise,” Fung said. “When you’re dealing with ICE, their primary role is not to be your friend, their role is to look for reasons why you may be removable, why you should be detained or arrested. If you are in a private location do not open the door.”

Robert Chao Romero, the founder of the Matthew 25 movement, said the Latino/a community is hurting right now.

“Deep fear has taken root, deep strength as well as resilience, but deep fear,” Romero said. “The disconnect between the suffering of Latino/a community and the rest of the body of Christ is profound right now. For us in the Latino/a community we are hurting and suffering and fearful and yet we see other folks in the body of Christ, our sisters and brothers not responding.”

Romero pointed to 1 Corinthians chapter 12, referring to the body of Christ.

“Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many but God has put the body together giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body but that it’s parts should have equal concern for each other, if one part suffers every part suffers with it, if one part is honored every part is rejoicing in it,” Romero said.

The Matthew 25 global church movement aims to support vulnerable communities. Romero shared how APU students, staff, faculty and alumni can support undocumented friends and families through partnering with allied churches, working for advocacy, or getting trained through Matthew 25 workshops to show equal concern for the body.

Juliette Derbyshire, a junior communication studies major, said that supporting this vulnerable community is her greatest takeaway from the event.

“What brought me here was that drive to hear something that wasn’t my own story, I try to get myself out of my comfort zone and get myself into those situations to find out what is really going on [with other people],” Derbyshire said. “The training and learning what resources to get involved with is a way I can contribute my support to this crisis.”