By Ricardo Martir
The Immigrants Rising group raises awareness among staff, faculty, and administrators on how to create access and opportunities for Black undocumented students in higher education programs throughout the country.
The hosts of the webinar were Eva Vera Burns, an organizer at Black Alliance for Just Immigration, and Shirleen Achieng, an organizer for the Haitian Bridge alliance.
The hosts said a Pew Research study shared “An estimated 575,000 of Black Immigrants were living in the US without authorization in 2017, making up 16% of the Black immigrant population.”
A lot of Black immigrant students don’t attend college because they don’t believe it’s possible.
According to a 2019 study by the US Census Bureau, out of the 427,000 undocumented students 53,617 of them were Black immigrants.
Black immigrant students are ranked fourth highest out of five possible ethnic groups. Out of those 53,617 students only 9,607 were eligible and enrolled for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. That’s only 5.3%of the Black immigrant college student population.
Vera Burns said students who are part of the minority and immigrant population often lack the tools and knowledge to take advantage of the resources available for their disposal.
Students not having the time to prioritize their studies and scholarship opportunities is a common story because not only do they have their educational duties but they also have other responsibilities such as work and taking care of their family.
A student from California State University Los Angeles said, “I always knew that I was undocumented since the age of six. My parents thought that the only way for me to go to college and get a scholarship was to be really good in extracurricular activities such as sports and music…however, I started building up anxiety because of the pressure that my parents were constantly putting on me.”
Under representation is a big reason for the Black immigrant community having few students attending and pursuing higher education.
A student from California State Dominguez Hills University said, “It is important to have a role model that looks like me and that can understand the battles that I have based on my identity. Unfortunately, DRC (Dream Resource Centers) do not provide that element of representation.”
The hosts said the situation is partly due to students being unaware of all the opportunities programs offer.
“Of the educators interviewed, almost all noted that the undocumented student services on their respective campuses did not target Black undocumented students,” Burns said.
Burns said faculty and popular media are unaware of the opportunities out there. This leads to a lack of representation in higher education.
Instead, these students face repercussions from campus policing.
Some solutions to fix under representation include:
Hiring competent financial aid workers who are conscious of racial bias.
Developing fellowship opportunities for non-DACA graduate students.
Establishing specific scholarships/fellowships strictly saved for Black undocumented students.
By starting these actions social connections can begin and a shift in representation is possible
The hosts said spreading awareness is possible through foundations including Haitian Bridge Alliance, The Black Alliance for Just Immigration, Black Immigrant Collective, African Bureau of Immigrants and Social Affairs.