UW-Milwaukee Works With Undocumented Students During Period of Uncertainty

Dec 15, 2016

The results are in, but last month’s presidential election still leaves many questions unanswered, including what will happen with undocumented immigrants.

President-elect Donald Trump has said he hopes to deport two to three million of those people once he takes office.

His plans could also affect undocumented college students studying in the U.S. under a program Trump says he will end.

And that worries Andrea Lozano.

“He doesn’t want any type of immigrant, pretty much,” she says, “so it does affect my family, it does affect me personally, it does affect my friends.”

Lozano is a sophomore at UW-Milwaukee studying political science. She’s also an immigrant. Her parents brought her & her four siblings to Wisconsin from Mexico, when she was two. 

Lozano’s parents are undocumented – and she worries they could be deported once Trump takes office.

What’s more, Lozano could be sent back to Mexico right along with her parents.

“Sometimes it goes through my mind, like, I won’t be coming to school here next year, I won’t be seeing my friends, I won’t be having the life that I imagined – and it’s worrisome,” Lozano says. “[Trump] has the power to just take that away.”

Lozano, like three-quarters of a million other students around the country, is able to study in the U.S. under a program called "DACA" -- Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The policy grants deportation exemptions to undocumented immigrants who were brought to the states as kids.

President Obama passed DACA by executive order, and his successor says he intends to eliminate the rule.

But leaders at 300 colleges and universities around the country say they’ll stand up to Trump. They’ve signed a letter supporting DACA -- in essence, telling politicians they want to keep these students on American campuses.

Two that signed the letter are UW-Madison and UW-Milwaukee.

“We’ve had students here on our campus come to us in tears,” says Joan Prince, UWM’s vice chancellor for global inclusion and engagement. “This is the only nation that they know, this is the only community that they know.” 

UWM Chancellor Mark Mone has charged Prince with coordinating resources for UWM students and staff seeking help on immigration matters. In coming months, Prince plans to organize campus conversations, as well as distribute a list of referral materials, so students and staff know where to go if they need legal or personal help.

But for now, she says, it’s just a matter of keeping nerves at bay – since so much is still up in the air until Trump’s inauguration.

“While what we’re doing may seem as if we are trying to anticipate what happens, it’s all we can do right at this moment,” Prince explains. “But what it also is doing, I think, is trying to calm the fears of students and staff to the point where they can say, ‘no we don’t know what’s going to happen six months from now. But for right now, there are people that care about me, they’re making me feel as if I’m wanted here.’”

Student Andrea Lozano says she’s proud of her campus for standing up for immigrants. She points out that since they don’t have immigration papers, neither she nor her parents were able to cast a vote in the presidential election – the results of which, may determine what happens next in their lives.

“He might not even do anything!” Lozano says of the president-elect. “We all rush to conclusions, and maybe nothing’s even going to happen.”

In her best-case scenario, Lozano says she would stay in Milwaukee. Her dream job is to head up the UWM Roberto Hernández Center – the office serving Latino students on campus, where Lozano works as a student receptionist.

But, Lozano says she knows she’ll be successful wherever she ends up – even if that’s back in Mexico.

“This is my home. I love America! I feel American,” she remarks. “Yes, I could be successful anywhere, but my dream is to be successful here.”

In addition to signing the letter supporting DACA, Chancellor Mark Mone signaled the possibility of making UWM a “sanctuary” campus. That would mean the university could limit its cooperation with the feds on immigration enforcement.