Coming Out of the Shadows: DACA at AU

Headshot of Angel Rodriguez

Anderson University has many outlets for students, including an outlet in the Cultural Resource Center, commonly known as the CRC. Mike Thigpen, director of the Cultural Resource Center and Multicultural Student Services explains, “It is the house for all things international, multicultural, or anything diverse.” The CRC houses and covers all ethnic groups, but also social issues. They help with cultural differences and how to approach specific situations, but also how to be a leader of humility and to be open to learning. The CRC is a home to many diverse students and acts as a safe place for them. As President Donald Trump’s administration deciphers what Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) will look like in the future, the CRC is becoming more important to these students.

DACA is a temporary work visa that is renewable every two years. As of 2017, nearly 800,000 individuals were enrolled in this program giving many undocumented immigrants some of the freedom of an American citizen. However, DACA could change drastically under the Trump administration. Angel Rodriguez graduated from AU in May 2017 with a double major in Global Studies and Spanish and is now serving as a graduate assistant while working on his MBA. DACA, he says, “was an opportunity to come out of the shadows and integrate into society in a more effective way in order to benefit both the recipient and the American society as a whole.”

A current “Dreamer” under DACA for the past 17 years, Rodriguez and his family immigrated to America when he was five-years-old and crossed the border as “illegal aliens.” Once entering the United States, his family moved to the place they call home today: Greenfield, Indiana. It was there where he grew up “illegal,” but he states that he wasn’t aware of the consequences that were attached to that term. Unfortunately, because he wasn’t documented, he was unable to do some of the things his friends were able to do. For instance, he wasn’t allowed to go on field trips that required flying, he wasn’t able to have a first job, or even experience driving without the fear of getting pulled over.

The reality of living as an undocumented immigrant is that you are labeled as a second-class citizen. He emphasizes that even to this day, he still has to tiptoe around the law. He hasn’t been able to visit his country in 17 years, which is 17 years without seeing his cousins, aunts, or uncles.

“To me, it gave the opportunity to continue living here in the US and obtain a diploma from Anderson University,” said Rodriguez. “In fact, back in 2012, right before President Barack Obama announced this executive order, I was planning on buying a one-way ticket back to Mexico. However, by chance and perhaps plenty of prayer, President Obama announced his decision within a few days, which in turn changed my whole life. It gave me a chance to stay in the place I call home.”

Recently, Trump has been willing to work with the Democrats on trying to figure out the future of DACA. This gives Rodriguez hope that these conversations are a sign that Trump is willing to work with both sides to ensure there are measures taken place so that the 800,000 DACA recipients can be at ease. Although Rodriguez does not agree with Trump, he does respect him and does believe that he is trying to do what is best for his country. “I do think Mr. Trump will come to a sensible decision and so will his party,” said Rodriguez.

When the CRC found out the news about DACA, they immediately reached out to their students about it. Thigpen talked about what this means for the students and their families because each family may have a different situation that they are facing. “It is our job as the Cultural Resource Center to be available to them. We can’t fix it obviously, but all we can do is educate ourselves on the problem, and ask the tough questions,” said Thigpen. He notes that when you spend time with these individuals and you know their heart, it quickly becomes personal. It is easier to judge the situation when it’s distant from you and you aren’t affected by it.

Thigpen states that once you connect a story with a person, DACA is no longer just a program. The program and the situation then have a face and that changes everything. The CRC wants to ensure that they hear each student’s story. While these students may not know what will happen next, they do know that they have a home at AU and in the CRC while they play the waiting game.

Liam Crays is a junior from Indianapolis, Ind., majoring in public relations. Crays is writing on behalf of the Anderson University Office of Marketing and Communication, through the Advanced Feature and Magazine Writing class.

Anderson University is a private, liberal arts institution in Anderson, Indiana with a mission to educate students for lives of faith and service in the church and society. Anderson University is recognized among top colleges by U.S. News and World Report, Colleges of Distinction, and The Princeton Review. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, the university now offers more than 50 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, music education, and theology.

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