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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Exploring Undocumented Students' Understandings of the Role of Higher Education during the Trump Era

  • Author(s): Santellano, Karina
  • et al.
Abstract

Law pertaining to immigrants is conceptualized as legal violence (Menjívar and Abrego 2012). Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is an executive policy with an uncertain future under the Trump administration. In California, many DACA beneficiaries are students at public colleges and universities. This paper conceptualizes DACA as another form of legal violence and draws from 30 in-depth interviews with undocumented students to explore the ways in which undocumented students believe the role of their college/university is to mitigate the legal violence stemming from the liminality of DACA. Some participants believe their colleges/universities should provide safety, specifically via the designation of sanctuary campus status for its symbolic importance, others believe their colleges have a responsibility beyond intellectualism sharing they should be progressive leaders against xenophobia, while others expressed cynicism, describing institutions of higher education as corporations interested in their brand rather than in being immigrant rights advocates on behalf of their students.  This study serves as a way for institutions of higher education to learn how undocumented students perceive their roles and duties. At the end of this paper, the author suggests how colleges and universities can work towards mitigating legal violence in the lives of undocumented students.

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