How to be an Ally for Undocumented Students

More than 450,000 undocumented students are enrolled in higher education, according to a 2020 report released by the New American Economy (NAE) and Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration. Of these students, 216,000 are DACA-eligible– they either hold DACA or would have been eligible for DACA. In this current political climate, DACA and immigration have become one of the central topics and have gathered increasing activist support from all communities. During these times, undocumented students need direct support and advocacy more than ever.

The first step to being an ally is to become informed. A good place to start is to develop an understanding of the technical difference between U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents, and undocumented immigrants. 

U.S. Citizens: People who hold citizenship in the United States through birth on U.S. soil, birth to U.S. citizen parents abroad, naturalization, or the naturalization of the parent while the Legal Permanent resident child is still young. 

Legal Permanent Residents (LPRS/Green Card Holders): Immigrants who are allowed to remain in the United States indefinitely. A status that puts an immigrant “on the path to U.S. citizenship”. LPR status is granted through petitions based on U.S. citizen or LPR family members or through the sponsorship of an employer certifying that the person fulfills a role (usually high-skilled) no American has been found to perform. 

Undocumented Immigrants: Undocumented immigrants live in the United States and do not have citizenship, hold a temporary visa, nor are lawful permanent residents. Some common examples are those of individuals who may be undocumented if they enter the U.S. without an inspection, enter on a temporary visa and stay, or lose their LPR status. The children of undocumented immigrants (“dreamers”) may have grown up in the U.S. and identify themselves as American.

 It is important to use inclusive words. For example, stay away from the word ‘illegal’ or ‘alien’ to direct a proper immigration discourse. Be open-minded and don’t make assumptions about who may or may not be undocumented. Undocumented individuals are not all Latinx, Spanish-speaking, have DACA, or are enrolled in ESL courses. It is important to listen to personal stories and understand others’ hardships and one’s own privilege. To be an ally means empowering others and finding ways to work alongside them.  

 The key is to stay informed and active. Join and create safe spaces to provide a supportive atmosphere. Become knowledgeable of legislation, policies, and legal resources by keeping up with news and participating in local or federal government decisions such as calling legislators and supporting pro-immigration laws.  

 Some organizations to be aware of in your undocumented ally journey are:  

Connecticut Institute for Refugees and Immigrants’ (CIRI) mission is to assist refugees and immigrants overcome legal, economic, linguistic, and social barriers through legal, social, and educational programming. They work in building economic independence through workforce readiness and placement services, providing translation services, and supportive services for refugees and survivors of human rights violations.  

TheDream.US is one of the nation’s largest college access and success program for DREAMers. Working with a community of partners including 70+ committed partner colleges committed to addressing the barriers and challenges DREAMers face, TheDream.US provides scholarships to highly qualified DREAMers to help them pay for their college education. By forging a connected community of DREAMer scholars, TheDream.US equips its scholars with leadership, mentor, internships, and leadership development opportunities. In addition to selecting and funding Scholars, TheDream.US provides resources from guides to legal services, volunteer opportunities, and news updates.

CT Students for a Dream is a statewide youth-led organization fighting for the rights of undocumented youth and families. The work to create conversations and spread awareness through organized events and meetings discussing current issues affecting immigrants.

Junta for Progressive Action‘s mission is to collaborate with Latinx communities in the Greater New Haven area to advance the social, economic, and civic environment for all while embracing Latinx cultural traditions. By taking a whole-person approach to serving communities, their three programs, Junta 360, Social Services; Junta Rises, Community and Economic Advancement; and Junta Youth, Youth Development they continue to support residents and advocate for human rights.

 By Andrea Gonzalez

By Tara Malone
Tara Malone Associate Director, Regional Campuses Tara Malone