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Public university creates position to protect illegal immigrant students

(AP Photo)

(AP Photo)

In response to student demands, the University of Maryland is creating a full-time staff position solely dedicated to assisting illegal immigrant students with various needs.

In a statement to the the school newspaper, university spokeswoman Katie Lawson confirmed that the school was establishing a position that would focus on addressing the needs of the undocumented student population.

”As part of the university’s ongoing commitment to undocumented students… We are assigning a UMD staff person to serve as a coordinator to address the immediate needs of the undocumented student population,” wrote Lawson. “We will continue to assess the need for staff support moving forward.”

Following the election of President Donald Trump, a student group called ProtectUMD issued a list of 64 demands for reform in the campus community. Included in their list was that the University establish ”a full-time Undocumented Student Coordinator to advocate for, advise, represent, and protect undocumented and DACAmented students.”

UMD student Erica Fuentes, who is president of the student group Political Latinxs United for Movement and Action in Society, noted that the coordinator position could also assist illegal immigrant applicants to the school.

“Applying to a state institution can be difficult for undocumented students,” said Fuentes. “A lot of times college applications require students to disclose personal information about themselves, oftentimes [asking] residency questions and things like that.”

A coordinator could give “emotional counsel and support as well,” Fuentes said. “Undocumented students face a lot of issues because they’re balancing going to school, oftentimes paying their tuition entirely out of pocket because they don’t qualify for financial aid.”

In addition to their request for a student coordinator of undocumented students, ProtectUMD has also demanded that the school hire a full-time immigration attorney in the Offices of Undergraduate and Graduate Student Legal Aid. However, some undocumented students don’t think a single attorney would be enough, and would prefer that the school hire multiple attorneys solely dedicated towards assisting undocumented students.

“A group [of immigration attorneys] would be really good,” said Bibiana Valdes, who is an undocumented student attending UMD under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. “I would definitely use that to my advantage in the case that something were to happen.”

The University has indicated that establishment of such a position would be based on actions by the Trump Administration, as well as whether or not there is room in the budget. In 2016, UMD received a combined $560 million in funding from federal and state taxpayers.

 


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