In a large classroom at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Student Union, Carolina faculty and staff members approach each other, clutching bingo sheets. “Do you know what ‘TPS’ means?” asks one participant. Her colleague responds, “It stands for ‘Temporary Protected Status’ and refers to people affected by particular natural disasters and armed conflicts over the years who paid to apply for a work permit that was renewable after 18 months. It has been used for people from Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Haiti.”
Now it’s the other player’s turn to ask a question to help fill out his “Human Bingo” card. “What does ‘DACA’ stand for?” “It stands for ‘Deferred Action Childhood Arrival’ and refers to some people who arrived in the U.S. without documentation as children. They could receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and become eligible for a work permit in the U.S. if they qualify and have not committed a felony or serious misdemeanor,” responds the knowledgeable player.
Indeed, the meaning of DACA is what is at the core of UndocuCarolina Ally Training. Supported by the UNC Humanities for the Public Good Initiative and UNC Global, UndocuCarolina’s mission is to increase visibility, support and resources at UNC for undocumented members of the Carolina community. UndocuCarolina collaborates with the UNC DACA/Undocumented Resource Team and the Im/migration, Illegality, and Citizenship Working Group to open spaces of learning and dialogue for our campus and larger community, including a series of Ally Training 101 in the 2018-2019 academic year.
By bringing together different disciplinary approaches from across the humanities (educational, artistic, literary, journalistic), their aim is to examine and better appreciate the contours of present day immigration policy and the causes and consequences of living undocumented. “While UndocuCarolina is new for the 2018/19 academic year, momentum for this work has been building over time,” notes team member Dr. Angela Stuesse (Department of Anthropology). “Students have been demanding greater support for undocumented members of the Carolina community and pilot trainings were designed, conducted by some students and faculty in recent years. As members of the provost’s DACA/Undocumented Resource Team, we are all committed to making our campus more inclusive for undocumented students and mixed-status families. With the support of a Humanities for the Public Good Critical Issues Award, we were able to formalize our efforts.”
In addition to Dr. Stuesse, the DACA/Undocumented Resource Team consists of Dr. Todd Ramón Ochoa and Barbara Sostaita, Department of Religious Studies; Ricky Hurtado, LatinxEd/Somos Carolina (formerly NC Sli); and Rubi Franco, Apoyo.
The three-hour trainings use interactive workshop techniques to familiarize participants with federal, state and University laws and policies that affect undocumented students and their families; teach attendees to identify and make a commitment to immigrant-sensitive language; and make allies aware of resources available on campus and in the community for undocumented students, allowing them to leave with some knowledge of how they can support undocumented members of the Carolina community. As TPS recisions take effect, this is likely to affect not just students, but faculty and staff as well.
The trainings are dynamic. After the Human Bingo icebreaker, the group segues to the inclusive language portion of the session. Terms such as “undocumented,” “illegal” and “without status” are defined and broken down into bullet points, making them easier to understand. “’Illegal’ is a term commonly used to describe those without legal status,” explains Raul Pinto, a staff attorney with the Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project of the NC Justice Center who is collaborating with UndocuCarolina to put on the trainings. “Most in the immigrant community greatly disapprove of the use of this term, arguing that while actions are illegal, individuals cannot be.”
Participants are challenged to consider how using “illegal” (or “the ‘I’ word”) would make a student feel and how unknowingly using the term may affect the participant’s ability to provide service to students. This leads to a lively conversation among the group, many of whom had never considered the impact of this word.
This message is further reinforced when some of the facilitators share their own immigrant stories. The stories are powerful and paint the human side of the immigration debate. Many of these young people had no idea of their status until they went to get a driver’s license and realized that they didn’t have documentation. The shock, anger and disappointment they felt was incredibly painful and took them a long time to process. Participants are near tears as they listen to the very personal stories of how students dealt with the extraordinary pressure of serving as interpreters for their family, the fear that their parents might not come home because they were picked up by ICE and/or having to navigate the “penalty” of paying out of state tuition to Carolina after having been graduated from a North Carolina high school.
The training provides an overview of federal and North Carolina laws and policies, answering questions and dispelling misperceptions. The myth that people are undocumented by choice, since they did not “wait in line” or that undocumented people do not pay taxes is debunked. “There is no such thing as a line,” Mr. Pinto says. People spend thousands in legal fees just to apply for any legal type of protection such as DACA without any legal path to right their situation. This highlights some of the many misconceptions regarding issues facing immigrants to the U.S.
Breaking up into groups, participants apply their new knowledge to various case studies, considering what they would do and how they could act as allies in different interactions with undocumented members of the Carolina community. By the end of the training, the new allies feel well-armed with newfound knowledge.
Participant responses have been enthusiastic, says Stuesse, with many requests for unit trainings so that both staff and students can become better equipped to act as UndocuCarolina allies. Typical response: “The program was extremely well done. Good pacing with a good mix of personal stories, immigration facts, awareness training and NC laws. Congratulations!” (Elizabeth Barnum, Director, International Students and Scholar Services).“Our resources and human power are the main limiting factor to expanding the number of trainings we can offer, but we’re hopeful participants will help the University see the value in UndocuCarolina so that, with additional support, our work can continue,” says Stuesse.
In addition to the trainings, UndocuCarolina is collaborating with the Resource Team and the Im/migration, Illegality, and Citizenship Working Group to bring speakers to campus, hold community roundtable discussions, cultivate community, and build a web-based UndocuCarolina resource center. In celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, (Jan. 20), in collaboration with LatinxEd and the Curriculum in Global Studies, UndocuCarolina will host a film screening of “The Unafraid,” followed by a panel discussion and reception, 3:30-6:30 p.m., at the FedEx Global Education Center.