NY DREAM Act Approved But Fears Persist

Students in Denver protest President Trump’s decision to end DACA in September 2017. (Photo by Melanie Asmar via Chalkbeat)

Last month, students, educators and immigrant advocates cheered the passage of the Jose Peralta New York State DREAM Act, which gives undocumented students access to financial aid for colleges in the state. But fears linger for many students such as Nigeria native Ifeanyi Ejiogu, a Bronx high school senior seeking asylum. He tells Chalkbeat‘s Reema Amin, “I feel like I have to have a lawyer next to me because I’m not sure if ICE is going to come.” He went on to say: “It’s always going to be fear until you have your green card or you’re a citizen.”

Ilona Nanay, a history teacher at Mott Hall V describes a similar sentiment among two undocumented students, who she and a college counselor tried to convince to think about attending college again after the DREAM Act passed – but to no avail.

“Families are still terrified; students are still terrified,” Nanay said. “I’ve had students who have had to stay in detention centers and share those experiences, and it’s extremely traumatic.”

Amin notes that it is unclear what the applications to apply for tuition assistance will ask for “beyond requiring an affidavit from undocumented students stating that they’ve filed or plan to file an application to become legal residents.”

Andrea Ortiz, manager of education policy at New York Immigration Coalition, an immigration advocacy group, said she hopes the officials consult with coalitions and groups that are familiar with immigrants’ concerns.

Applications should be easy to read and fill out, and should not ask undocumented families for information that could make them uncomfortable, Ortiz said. And the school personnel who will be tasked with helping students to complete them must be trained in the intricacies of working with undocumented students.

Go to Chalkbeat for more from Ortiz, along with how government officials are working to train educators, and challenges teachers face in helping undocumented students.

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