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Lecture Tackles Barriers Faced by DACAmented and Undocumented Students in Higher Ed

The Boston College Center for Human Rights and International Justice (CHRIJ) hosted a lecture and workshop entitled “DACAmented and Undocumented Students in Higher Education: Working Toward Inclusion” on Friday afternoon, to discuss how to create inclusive and safe environments for this population of students.

Led by Raquel Muñiz Castro, assistant professor in the Department of Educational Leadership & Higher Education and liaison to the BC Law School, along with Natalie Borg, M.Ed, and Hannah Dodge, a BC law student, the lecture opened with Dodge defining the terms inclusion and DACA.

According to UNESCO, inclusion is “a process that helps to overcome barriers limiting the presence, participation, and achievement of learners.”

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is a program implemented in June 2012 under former President Obama as a temporary protection against deportation. It does not give its recipients legal status, nor is it a path to citizenship.

The speakers went on to explain the challenges that both DACAmented and undocumented students face within the education system of the country, and what policies and practices institutions can adopt to remove some of the barriers that DACAmented and undocumented students face.

DACAmented students must face the impermanence of their DACA status, which must be renewed every two years. They can not receive federal financial aid for college and have only piecemeal access to in-state tuition. Undocumented students must face the constant fear of deportation and difficulty finding work, opening bank accounts, and obtaining driver’s licenses.

Borg contextualized these challenges for students at Boston College, pointing out that service trips often assume that student-leaders will drive vehicles. This expectation overlooks and excludes students whose status prevents their participation.

Providing another example focused on Boston College, the lecturers identified that study abroad is unavailable to DACAmented and undocumented students. They explained that the institutionalization of this expectation may alienate students without the necessary paperwork.

After discussing the challenges that students face on campus, Borg presented a list of the best practices that could be implemented at Boston College and other institutions of higher education to work towards inclusion, support, and protection of these vulnerable groups.

Borg spoke about how it is imperative for the administration, faculty, staff, and students to listen, learn, and seek to understand unique and difficult situations. As a community, it is important to denounce bigotry and practice inclusive language, which includes removing terms like "illegal" and "alien" from vocabulary.

The administration must create tailored and consistent financial aid opportunities, as accessible financial aid varies from institution to institution, said Borg. She added that the administration must also ask whether there are programs for students who run out of resources, such as money for food, and whether there is affordable and accessible housing even during vacation periods.

As a way to discuss inclusive policies and incorporate them into the professional sphere, Borg explained that a campus-wide, comprehensive training should be provided for faculty and staff. Lastly, the university must increase and personalize counseling services, and information must be transparent and easily accessible for those who may need it.

To show that these policies are not merely theoretical, the speakers pointed to many institutions that have created policies to give full institutional aid to DACAmented and undocumented students, including numerous Jesuit universities.

While the practices and policies of inclusion align with Boston College’s mission, the institution has yet to implement many of these practices to support and protect DACAmented and undocumented students on campus.