Recent deportation raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement took undocumented families by surprise. Because of this, most are afraid to leave their homes.
Jeh Johnson, Department of Homeland Security secretary, defended the actions as necessary, while acknowledging problems with it.
“I know there are many who loudly condemn our enforcement efforts as far too harsh, while there will be others who say these actions don’t go far enough. I also recognize the reality of the pain that deportations do in fact cause. But, we must enforce the law consistent with our priorities,” he said.
There are spaces for undocumented immigrants, including the DREAM Team. Named after the 2010 bill offering a path to citizenship through the military or education, different chapters exist throughout the U.S.
Queens College’s DREAM Team President Raquel Matias, a senior majoring in mathematics, felt concerned with the effect of raids on students.
“It saddens me to know that they are not just being denied the rights of a student, but the rights of following their dream,” Matias said.
The Dream Team offers resources and workshops to improve the lives of undocumented students.
Dulce Hernandez, a junior studying Graphic Design and DREAM Team member, said she learned how to protect herself as an undocumented student.
“I educated myself well enough to be aware what I was allowed to do, where to go and how I could fulfill my goals. I made sure to apply for DACA, which gave me the opportunity to work in order to pay for school when I graduated from high school,” she said.
DACA refers to the Deferred Actions Childhood Arrivals program, first created by President Barack Obama in 2012. It gives undocumented immigrants a work permit and deportation exemption if they arrived to U.S. before turning 16.
Efforts to create a safe space for undocumented students are also found outside of the campus. In downtown Flushing, the MinKwon Center for Community Action works with the local community, including undocumented youths.
Jung Rae Jang, organizing fellow at MinKwon Center, used the word “tragedy” to describe the recent deportation stories.
“The system we have currently is very inefficient as well as very inhumane in a way,” Jang said.
After working with MinKwon Center since 2012 and witnessing immigrants’ struggles, Jang saw how the difficulty faced by undocumented students links to a bigger picture–isolation.
“This is not an issue that is just a problem within the undocumented population, it’s actually an issue that affects all immigrant families in the United States,” Jang said. “I highly encourage people to do active participation in this issue because you never know who is undocumented. It could be your friends, your neighbor or it can be some of the peers you see in your school.”