By Alexandra Gomes
Recently, University President F. Javier Cevallos publicly declared his support for DACA students.
DACA students are undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children and have graduated from an American high school, and are thereby granted permission to stay in the country for a certain period of time, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
“I support students,” said Cevallos. “It is both the right thing to do for those students, because they are obviously trying to improve their futures, but its also the right thing to do for this country. We are a nation of immigrants and we have always had this dichotomy between being a nation of immigrants and being extremely anti-immigrant,” he said.
As of this semester, there are 31 DACA students and one undocumented resident enrolled at FSU, according to Mark Powers, executive director of student record and registration services.
In an email to faculty and staff, Cevallos explained how he pledged his support for these students at a recent Massachusetts Board of Education meeting, where Commissioner Carlos Santiago did the same.
Together, they asked the Board to also pledge their support for Massachusetts DACA students and to continue granting them in-state tuition.
Cevallos said, “In my mind, any student who has graduated from a high school in Massachusetts and has lived in Massachusetts for at least three years should be considered an in-state student, regardless of national origin.”
He added, “It doesn’t make sense to me to deny education to people just because they happen to have been born in a different place.”
Additionally, Cevallos asked the Board to support a new bill, “An act to ensure tuition equity for Massachusetts residents,” that would allow Massachusetts residents who have lived in the state for three years and graduated from a Massachusetts high school to be granted in-state tuition, regardless of documentation status.
One challenge DACA students often face is the cost of education. While they are granted in-state tuition, they are not eligible for financial aid and have to cover the school bill themselves, said Cevallos.
“That is always a very steep challenge, even for an institution like ours, where we are affordable but we are not inexpensive,” he said.
Another is the uncertainty of their current DACA status, said Cevallos.
“Just imagine that you wake up every morning not knowing what is going to happen about your status in the country – whether you’re going to be allowed to stay,” he said. “It’s a stressful and very difficult time.”