In light of President Donald J. Trump’s recent executive actions, immigrants — documented and undocumented — have been worried about their fate.
During his candidacy, Trump said if he were elected, he would reform immigration by stopping illegal immigration, deporting undocumented immigrants that are criminals and extending the vetting process for refugees and immigrants from predominately Muslim countries.
Since he assumed office, Trump has attempted to follow through on his promises. On Jan. 28, he signed an executive order banning immigrants and refugees from seven predominately Muslim countries from entering the U.S. for 90 days, including people that held green cards and visas.
However, the ban was short lived. On Feb. 9, three Ninth Circuit judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals unanimously decided to suspend the order.
According to the American Immigration Council, only 5 to 10 percent of the 65,000 undocumented students that graduate from high school each year attend college. To show support for their undocumented students, dozens of colleges and universities across the country have either declared themselves as a “sanctuary campus” or are in the process of becoming one.
While ETSU doesn’t consider itself a “sanctuary campus,” undocumented students are protected by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, according to Lisa Williams, a lawyer with ETSU’s Office of University Counsel. FERPA is a federal law that protects the privacy of a student’s education records.
“We don’t necessarily have to track student’s statuses,” Williams said.
Williams added that these undocumented students are protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy that President Barack Obama signed in 2012. DACA allows illegal immigrants that came to the U.S. as minors to defer deportation for two years and become eligible for a work permit.
Undocumented immigrants that have graduated high school or have a GED, were brought to the U.S. before their 16th birthday, and have lived in the U.S. for at least five years are eligible for conditional lawful permanent status for six years. This is known as the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act. Because of the DREAM Act, those that qualify can enter the workforce, attend a college or university or join the military.
“If you were to meet a DACA student, you would not realize they are undocumented,” Williams said. “They’ve probably lived here their whole lives.”
According to Williams, since these students cannot provide a true proof of residency, undocumented students in Tennessee are not eligible for in-state tuition or federal education grants. However, they are eligible for federal student loans and federal work study.
“Even documented people have a lot of restrictions, but DACA students have a lot less options,” she said.