ScholarshipsA-Z

By JOE GIDDENS

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients are a diverse group of young people.

“People think that DACA recipients ares solely Mexican or Latinx identity are from Hispanic back grounds, which is mostly true here in Arizona, but actually nationwide that’s far from true,” said Mira Patel of ScholarshipsA-Z.

Patel herself is an embodiment of that. She was born and raised in London by her Indian parents and moved to Northern Arizona at a young age. DACA recipients come from all different backgrounds, nations and languages. However, 80 percent of DACA recipients were born in Mexico, according to U.S.Citizenship and Immigration Services.

“A great thing about ScholarshipsA-Z is we also combat that, that narrative of who an emergent is or who undocumented immigrant is,” Patel said.

DACA recipients have faced a period of uncertainty over their future both on the federal and state level. In April, the Arizona State Supreme Court ruled that DACA recipients were not eligible to receive in-state
tuition. This, compounded with Proposition 300, which passed in 2006, states “who does not otherwise possess lawful immigration status in this country” may not receive instate tuition.

The state of Arizona forcing DACA students to pay out-of-state tuition has been causing some students not to enroll at a time when enrollment numbers are the major issue facing this institution. The number of DACA students attending Pima Community College on the first day of the Fall 2017 semester was 171. This has dropped to 88 students on the first day of Fall 2018, Pima spokewoman Libby Howell said.

“Estimated credits taken by DACA students for Fall 2017 were 1,504, which averages about nine credit hours per student. Credits taken this fall by DACA students are about 690.5, which is now closer to eight credit hours per student. This means that the reduced number of DACA students who are enrolled are also taking a slightly smaller course load,” Howell said by email.

The laws don’t give these students access to financial aid. This leaves only avenues for getting fi nancial aid through private scholarships, which are hard to come by. ScholarshipsA-Z is a nonprofi t here in Tucson founded in 2009. Its work is mostly centered around creating access and resources for undocumented students and DACA recipients to get them into higher education or on a career path. ScholarshipsA-Z also leads workshops for high school students on college readiness and how to apply for scholarships. “And then we also are part of deportation defense and rapid response. If there’s encounters with ICE or Border Patrol, we advocate and allow people to know their rights,” Patel said.

ScholarshipsA-Z has joined a number of other organizations this election cycle that is reaching out to Pima students on campus. Because the group’s interests are people that do not have citizenship, they’re using outreach to educate on issues that impact them.

“DACA students have a tremendous amount of power and ability, we don’t have the right to vote,” Patel said. “So when it comes to changing policies through a vote, it can be really diffi cult.” Other challenges this group faces is the high cost of healthcare. Federal policy prohibits funding for undocumented immigrants for Medicaid.

“And there’s also a fear, especially with the healthcare, if you’re not having insurance, what repercussions that may have,” Patel said.

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