In June of 2012, the Secretary of Homeland Security’s deferred action memorandum came into full effect, which allows young undocumented persons who meet a certain criteria to apply for legal documentation to work in the United States.
Some undocumented Salt Lake Community College students benefit from this deferred action, but many also deal with other struggles that come from living as an undocumented person in the United States.
“It means hope,” said deferred action applicant and SLCC student Alex Delgado. “Hope for kids like me who didn’t have a choice on the type of arrival they made at such a young age.”
Delgado is working on his generals at SLCC. He hopes to transfer to UVU to join the fire academy there. He says that deferred action meant he would be able to work, help out his struggling parents and pursue the career of a firefighter.
Importance of an education
“People take school for granted,” said soon to be SLCC student Valentina Maffey. “People complain about finals and homework. I’m so jealous; I wish I could complain.”
Maffey has wanted to go to SLCC to get her marketing associates degree, but financial issues have prevented her from enrolling. Maffey is an artist, and has been selling her pictures to save up for school.
“[An education] means a chance and an opportunity to live better and a bit easier,” said Maffey.
Undocumented students are not eligible for financial aid. Saul Ramirez attended SLCC over the spring 2012 semester.
He says that he had to drop out due to money issues but will return once the work permit from the deferred action comes in the mail.
SLCC Hispanic college advisor Elizete Bond says that financial issues cause many students to come into her office ready to quit school.
Bond advises these students to stick it out because once they earn a diploma and apply for a work permit through deferred action, they can get started on a career.
“Education you hold onto. Nobody can take your education,” said Bond.
Una Mano Amiga
Luz Gamarra, SLCC Hispanic advisor at South City Campus, created a peer mentoring program called “Una Mano Amiga.” This program offers a variety of resources including assistance with homework, resume making and financial help.
Gamarra says that undocumented students often drop out of school because they don’t know about the resources available.
For example, SLCC has the HB144 affidavit, which allows undocumented students who meet certain criteria be able to pay resident tuition.
Without filling out this form, undocumented students have to pay non-resident tuition no matter how long they’ve lived in Utah.
“Most undocumented students are too scared to ask for help,” said Gamarra. “But like my father use to say, ‘it’s better to be ignorant for five minutes than be ignorant for your whole life.’”