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Ashley Shackelton / Gavel Media

Undocumentedness in Higher Education: A Panel by Raquel Muñiz and Jonathan Mora

On September 22, the Center for Human Rights and International Justice hosted a panel with Jonathan Mora, a BC senior and recipient of the 2023 Saint Oscar Romero Scholarship, and Raquel Muñiz, an assistant professor of educational leadership and higher education and an assistant professor by courtesy at the BC law school. 

In their talk, "Students Facing Undocumentedness: Reflections from Personal Experiences and Finding community through the Undocu Network Summit," Muñiz provided a factual background on undocumented ness and the various legal and social challenges this brings as well as a personal perspective on living in a mixed status family. Afterward, Mora shared stories from his childhood to complement the statistics with the lived experience of a mixed-status family.

Muñiz began the talk with data on the population of undocumented students in the country, particularly those in higher education. There are currently 408,000 students in higher education who are undocumented, which includes those with DACA status. Of those students, 46% are Latinx, 27% are Asian, 14% are Black, and 10% are white. Muñiz described that undocumented students face a variety of challenges to attend college, including barriers such as the inability to access financial aid or a lack of knowledge about available resources. If undocumented students are able to access higher education, they continue to struggle socially due to the fear that their status will be discovered. 

While this data includes students with DACA status, the majority of undocumented students in higher education are not Dreamers despite 3 out of 4 students entering the United States at a young age, as there is an almost complete lack of pathways to citizenship, these students continue to face barriers to access in their education and beyond, as services such as healthcare or drivers licenses require proof of citizenship. Many of these requirements vary by state, as Muñiz highlighted a recent law in Massachusetts that allows individuals to obtain a driver's license regardless of their immigration status.

Despite the variety of challenges faced by undocumented students, Muñiz presented that studies have found they bring high levels of resilience and determination to achieve, are highly engaged in their community, and feel hopeful for their future in the United States. 

After the academic background section of the panel concluded, Mora began his presentation on his experience growing up in a family with different migration statuses. He began by showing pictures of him and his family and described how his identity as Mexican, the only son, and an American citizen has shaped his life. Mora's parents are both immigrants from Mexico, and his oldest sister came with them to the United States when she was a young child. He and his younger sisters were born later after his family arrived, making them all American citizens.

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