Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia

Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, Samuel Weiss Faculty Scholar and Director for the Center for Immigrants’ Rights, poses in her Innovation Park office on Tuesday, July 24, 2018.

While Rubi Garcia Manzo is a United States citizen, she said she speaks on behalf of those who can’t — through her support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also known as DACA.

The fate of DACA remains uncertain in the United States and its termination would affect those protected by DACA, called “Dreamers,” across the country.

As the vice president of the Mexican American Student Association and a UPUA at-large representative, Garcia Manzo (senior-political science) said she wants to make the Penn State community a more welcoming place for recipients of DACA.

“[Dreamers] are just as American as you and me,” she said. “We see what can happen when there are false things put out about DACA students. We see the prejudices, discrimination and lies. It’s important for people to be aware that these students need to be heard.”


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The immigration policy, which was created in 2012 under the Obama administration, allows children brought into the United States without legal permission to live, work and attend school in America

As of September 2017, 690,000 immigrants were enrolled in DACA, with over 90 percent of those individuals being from Latin America, according to Pew Research Center.

Since DACA’s inception, graduation rates and college enrollment rates of “Dreamer” students have increased by 15 percent and 20 percent respectively, according to a 2017 study conducted by Dartmouth College, Southern Methodist University and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

In 2017, the Trump administration announced DACA would end. Currently, no one new can apply to the receive protection under DACA. However, current DACA recipients are able to apply for renewals.

Many who oppose the program’s termination are continuing to fight for the program. On July 23, Pennsylvania’s Attorney General Josh Shapiro took legal action to protect about 6,000 DACA recipients in Pennsylvania.

In a letter released in 2017, Penn State President Eric Barron affirmed the university’s support for DACA and students in the program. However, some students believe Penn State is not doing enough to provide resources and support for DACA recipients.

While Garcia Manzo acknowledged all that Penn State has done for the “Dreamers,” she said the university could do more.

“[If Penn State did more], it would reassure students who are in DACA that they have a place at Penn State,” she said. “When we say, ‘We Are,’ we should include everybody.”

In order to help these students, Garcia Manzo said the MASA and Latino Caucus have partnered together to create a website for “Dreamer” students to complete their DACA renewal in privacy. They hope to have the website running by the end of September.

Tomas Sanchez, the president of Penn State’s Latino Caucus, said Penn State and the State College community need to show support for the “Dreamers” now more than ever because of “growing stigmas” surrounding them and immigration as a whole.

“The Latino community does not only look to our university for education, but to know that it is standing for the students that make Penn State the university it is proudly known to be,” Sanchez (junior-political science and sociology) said via email. “If Penn State is serious about being ‘All In,’ then better resources, and advertisement of those resources, would be a clear sign of its commitment to our diverse communities.”

As the future of DACA remains uncertain, Sanchez said the policy’s end would be “detrimental” to the Latino community at Penn State. He said it is important to speak out in favor of DACA.


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“While we appreciate President Barron’s signing onto the letter that was circulated amongst various universities’ leadership, we believe that more can be done to show that Penn State truly does have ‘an unwavering commitment to the education of all of our students’ as the President noted in his message regarding DACA,” he said.

Sanchez said he has spoken to many Penn State students whose perceptions of “Dreamers” are clouded by misconceptions.

He stressed the importance of “Dreamers’” realities as Penn State students — they attend classes, do their homework, add to the community’s socioeconomic growth and pay tuition without federal financial aid.

“[Dreamers] are students who earned their place at our university and it is important that all students realize this,” Sanchez said. “As a university with people of various identities and political stances, it is important for students to learn of these issues affecting their classmates and that these topics aren’t so far from their community.”

To Sanchez, DACA has not only provided students with legal rights to stay in the United States — it has also allowed them to reach their “full potential.”

He mentioned the story of a DACA recipient at Penn State, who said she realized the best way to prove she belonged in the United States was to succeed academically.

“Going to college is about gaining new knowledge and perspectives,” he said. “DACA allowed Penn State to have a whole new group of students to offer a perspective that has long been hidden.”

Penn State currently offers several resources to both educate the community about DACA and assist “Dreamers” with renewals. Student Legal Services offers help to students seeking to renew their DACA application, according to Kelly Mroz, director of SLS.

Mroz said SLS helps around two to three students a year with DACA renewals, as the program’s role at Penn State is to “help individual students with their specific legal needs.” Mroz however declined to make a statement concerning DACA’s state on behalf of SLS.

Sanchez said the Latino Caucus recommends “Dreamer” students turn to the Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic for free legal services and education surrounding DACA renewals through the center’s informational sessions.

Launched in 2008, the Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic provides resources for individual and organizational clients working on immigration. The clinic also seeks to educate the community about topics surrounding immigration through informational sessions.

Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia

Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, Samuel Weiss Faculty Scholar and Director for the Center for Immigrants’ Rights, poses in her Innovation Park office on Tuesday, July 24, 2018.

Shoba Wadhia, a Penn State clinical professor of law, is the clinic’s director. Each semester, six to eight law students run the clinic as a five-credit course.

“Community outreach and education is a key priority for the Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic and plays a significant role in making sure the community has accurate and accessible information about a complicated area of law,” Wadhia said via email.

DACA’s end would have a “significant impact” on the Penn State community, according to Wadhia. She said she has witnessed the contributions “Dreamers” have made at Penn State and across the country.

“The economic, educational and cultural gains DACA brings to individuals and to the country are well documented,” Wadhia said. “As a legal matter, I have long believed and continue to believe that DACA is a lawful exercise of the Department of Homeland Security’s prosecutorial discretion that should have been preserved by this administration— a subject I have researched for more than a decade.”

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