June 15, 2022
Borough of Manhattan Community College/CUNY is advocating for change to improve the lives of undocumented students and alumni. On June 15, Dr. Anthony E. Munroe, BMCC President, and BMCC students will be going to the White House to speak with lawmakers about the emotional and socioeconomic impacts of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the creation of the DACA program. In 2012, President Barack Obama signed an executive order that created the program that has come to be known as DACA. On this anniversary, college communities are reflecting on how DACA has expanded opportunities, changed lives, and strengthened campuses, workplaces, and the country over the past decade.
During the visit to Washington, D.C., BMCC’s constituency will share stories and successes of its DACA students, alumni, and staff. The group will also recognize the determination and contributions of our other undocumented students and alumni who are not eligible for DACA. The college’s efforts highlight the need to build on the successes of DACA to provide a permanent way for DACA and undocumented students to fully participate in the country they call home.
Nationwide, estimates show there are more than 427,000 undocumented students enrolled in postsecondary education, representing about two percent of all postsecondary students. Of these students, 181,000 are DACA-eligible (they either hold DACA or would have been eligible for DACA). New York State has roughly 25,000 undocumented students that are enrolled in postsecondary education, almost 8,000 of which are DACA-eligible according to a recent study by the President’s Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration.
While BMCC does not track or request information related to a student’s immigration status, the college estimated that prior to the onset of the pandemic there were 700-1,400 undocumented students enrolled. In the larger CUNY system that estimate is as high as 7,000 students.
Undocumented students, scholars, and alumni at BMCC, and in the CUNY system, have made significant contributions to their academic communities despite the disparities they face in the education system. While DACA has been invaluable to so many students, it is not enough for this next generation of scholars.
BMCC has joined leaders in higher education from across the country urging the passage of legislation that includes a path to citizenship for undocumented “Dreamers” nationally.
President Munroe is in Washington, D.C. this week, along with colleagues from higher education institutions, business leaders, students, and parents from across the nation to mark the anniversary and make the case to Congress and the White House that the time to act on behalf of Dreamers everywhere.
“BMCC is blessed with a diverse population of Dreamers and undocumented students and alumni from across the globe who have contributed professionally to the fields of education, engineering, social work, literature, computer science, banking, theatre and health care,” said BMCC President Anthony E. Munroe. “At the College, they have participated in student government, athletics, leadership conferences, and peer mentoring. They are members of Phi Theta Kappa, the National Society of Leadership and Success and the Dean’s list. They come to us, like many of our students, with a hope and a dream: to ‘Start here and Go Anywhere,’ It is our mission as a community college to ensure that our students, and New Yorkers more generally, have the opportunity to achieve their full potential. Our DACA students are doing that and deserve our full support and commitment to their future.”
Unfortunately, DACA students face several hurdles in obtaining education and pursuing their degree and careers. In addition to navigating the arduous legal system, DACA students face additional difficulties such as financing education, accessing necessary resources, and needs-based assistance. The purpose of DACA is to protect eligible immigrants, and it is in our national interest to establish permanent protections for them through legislative solutions.
BMCC student, Farhan Mamun, is joining President Munroe on his trip to D.C. to advocate for a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers and an expansion of DACA to cover even more young people that came to the U.S. as children. Farhan, who currently holds a 3.9 GPA, came to the United States in 2006 after his dad passed away in 2004. In 2020, Farhan joined BMCC to pursue his Associate’s degree in Criminal Justice. Since then, Farhan has been a fulltime student while working full time. If protection for DACA recipients were expanded, Farhan would be able to pursue a career in law enforcement which is not currently available to him.
“I read somewhere once that anything is possible if your put your mind to it,” Mamun says, “But without legal status, no matter how hard I try to accomplish my goal I’ll never be able to achieve it.”
BMCC student Omara T. Aguilar, who is now 20, arrived in the U.S. from Mexico when she was just two years old and is still seeking documented status.
“Children, such as myself, came into this country at an incredibly young age and don’t remember anything from the country we were born in. We’ve grown up in this country and learned about its customs, systems, how it works…we wouldn’t know where to start if we were forced to return to the countries we were born in,” Aguilar says. “I always envied my cousins that were born in the U.S. They get to travel around the world, to Mexico to see our family, get to work, get financial help easier. If DACA was expanded, it wouldn’t just help me but many others in this country who I know are struggling just as much and if not, worse. It’s given people like me hope in this country, and to have that hope taken is heartbreaking.”
Delivering a path to citizenship will provide the protection and opportunity Farhan, Omara, and other Dreamers deserve. The 10th anniversary of DACA is a moment for us to reflect on the daily contributions of our and undocumented students and how essential is to pass permanent protections for our students and others.
BMCC and CUNY are committed to fostering a safe, inclusive, and equitable environment for its students and will continue to support the DACA program as a path to citizenship for its students. Furthermore, BMCC and CUNY believe federal law and policy should support the education of students regardless of their immigration status.