“Speak even if your voice shakes”

Advocating for a DACA Renewal Fund

Sara Galván Orozco, Editor in Chief

I began my time at the mic by stating that I was there talking on behalf of the undocumented students that were not able to be present. I wanted to make sure that the university knew that I was not standing in front of them as an individual but as a representative of the different people I have spoken to. I moved on to asking President Gibson about her follow up actions after her apology. I urged her to contribute just as much time, energy, and money towards undocumented students at Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU). Why not invest $25,000 towards undocumented student programming? I shared with her that the undocumented students at NEIU have created a community where we support each other and share resources. One of the prevalent topics that are always re-introduced is the renewal of DACA and the cost associated with it. Most of us are constantly looking into different organizations and centers that offer funding for DACA renewals. I noticed my voice trembling and told myself, “speak even if your voice shakes.”  After I mentioned that to her, I blurted out, “Let’s invest towards DACA renewals!”  I informed her that we needed their support and commitment to setting us up with the tools to be successful and empowered. I communicated with her how undocumented students are at constant risk, even just by commuting to their classes. I shared with her that there was a recent ICE raid at my local pizzeria in the Southeast of Chicago. I also shared that other institutions are offering their undocumented students’ detail-oriented programming, safe spaces of their own, mental health, and even affordable housing options. I wanted to say so much more, but I was ready to hear her response.

After putting the mic back on the stand, President Gibson looked a bit confused. I was not sure if it was perhaps my shaky voice that might have made it hard for her to understand what I had said. I was upset that she did not seem to know about the renewal process for DACA: We must renew every two years and pay a $495 application in addition to any fees for the person filling out the form. I am glad that Dr. Lopez came to the mic to share the resources that are in place for undocumented students. Resources that many of us are unaware of if you are not engaged on campus. Resources that, Luvia Moreno, needs support in dispersing. Resources that we must make ourselves vulnerable towards. Resources that can be developed and improved upon. Students like me are ready to have this conversation— we are ready to take action and support NEIU in developing their Undocumented Student Resources.

Overall, I appreciate that Provost Rome took the initiative to pledge the first $1,000 towards assisting undocumented students to renew their work permits. Right after Provost Rome’s pledge, President Gibson matched his contribution. Therefore,  a total of $2,000 were pledged by the end of the Town Hall with President Gibson. Like I mentioned to President Gibson, It is clear that there is a struggle to fund renewals and that the students are looking for resources to fund the cost. $2,000 has the potential to cover four student’s DACA renewals. The only downside about the pledge is that it only helps DACAmented students and not those who were not eligible for DACA. My goal for next semester is to reconnect with President Gibson to make sure that she is aware of the struggles her undocumented students are facing. Although we are resilient, there are many factors that are at play that could be contributing to any retention loss. I want NEIU to be more proactive towards the undocumented students at NEIU and to incoming undocumented students.