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UTSA Launches Dreamers Resource Center For Undocumented Students

Joey Palacios | Texas Public Radio
Courtney Balderas–Jacob, interim program manager for the Dreamers Resource Center talks with Emmanuel Quiroz, a DACA recipient";

The University of Texas at San Antonio is providing a new office for undocumented students to learn what academic resources are available to them as they attend the school. It’s the first of its kind in Texas.

The university first launched a website for young undocumented immigrants last year but opened an office this week. UTSA’s Dreamer Resource Center will guide recipients of the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals program and other undocumented students into educational programming, peer mentoring, counseling and other UTSA programs.

“Given recent indications that DACA may not be resuscitated by Congress, it’s imperative we escalate the support we offer our ‘Dreamers,’ ” said UTSA President Taylor Eighmy in a news release. “We must do everything we can to ensure they have the right resources and information in the months to come.”

The status of 800,000 DACA recipients brought into the country illegally as children hangs in the balance as Congress debates a permanent solution for their ability to live and work in the U.S. before a March deadline.

UTSA doesn’t have an exact number of undocumented students but it said about 300 attend the university under the Texas Dream Act, which allows undocumented students who graduated from a Texas high school to qualify for in-state tuition. Texas has about 120,000 DACA recipients, the second highest in the country behind California.

Courtney Balderas-Jacob, interim program manager for the center, said one goal of the center is to make students feel welcome.

“Number one, they have the support of the UTSAfamilia, because that’s hugely important not just for this student population but for all of our students,” she said. “It’s meant to a one stop office for undocumented students to find out where certain programs they need are.”

She said, last year, UTSA students formed a special counseling group for students covered under DACA.

“(We’re) making sure students have that information readily available, rather than having to dig for it and go from office to office,” she said.

The center will partner with the nonprofit agency Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services to offer immigration legal services on campus.

Emmanuel Quiroz, 23, is a DACA recipient who come to the U.S. around 2004 after his father lost his job in Mexico. He helped start the center along with Andrea Ramos, a senior who also a DACA recipient. Quiroz said wants it to be at a place where undocumented students know they’re not alone.

“There’s people who are coming in, who are still struggling, who still need that guidance and that’s why a lot of us came out of the shadows and we’re like, ‘You know what, I am an undocumented student. I’m about to graduate and about to make it and so can you,’ ” he said.

Ramos says she hopes it will give future students direction when they enroll.

“The next generations of ‘Dreamers’ are going to have it easier, at least in their already difficult situations," Ramos said.

Joey Palacios can be reached at joey@tpr.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules