The University of Connecticut admissions website has improved considerably with the addition of a tab titled “Undocumented Students” containing information on the application process.
This seems like a minor alteration, but the undocumented student community, and CT Students for a Dream (C4D), have recognized it as one triumph in a series of conflicts. UConn is also making a powerful statement with the subheading on the tab: “ALL STUDENTS WELCOME HERE.”
A Facebook post from C4D regarding the website change relays this positive feeling:
“VICTORY! After much work from our team at Storrs, CT, UConn has added a page on their admission website specifically for undocumented students!”
Last year, undocumented UConn students undertook the development of an “Undocupeer Training” program, meant to be dispensed to admissions and financial aid staff in order to “increase the educational success of undocumented immigrants” and to “provide the tools necessary to begin or continue conversations on how to better support and work alongside undocumented immigrant students by streamlining departmental support and resources across the institution,” according to the United We Dream – “an immigrant youth-led organization” – website.
Essentially, applicable UConn staff had such a lack of knowledge on the circumstances surrounding undocumented student applications that the undocumented students they were supposed to help with applying ended up having to teach staff how to help.
This tab on the admissions website is a fruit of that labor, functioning to clarify the confusing web of laws and to untangle the complexities of applying to college as an undocumented student.
In 2011, a bill was passed to allow undocumented students, who live up to the requirements, to pay in-state tuition at a college or university. This was a large step in recognizing such students as human beings with equal rights under the law. The new webpage, an admittedly smaller step, reignites a fight that has been debated, but largely ignored by the Connecticut government for several years on another big issue – allowing undocumented students equal access to institutional aid, which they, although paying into the pool for said aid, cannot currently access.
Eric Cruz López, a fifth-semester student at UConn, is one of the student leaders who has been battling for even-handed legal treatment of undocumented students in Connecticut and undocumented immigrants in the United States. He talked about the meaning of the webpage, refraining from enjoying the moment for too long.
“It [the webpage] means that student organizing works, that pressuring the administration works,” López said. “It also means that undocumented students won’t have to try and navigate a system blindly with no direction. They will have a page that has some information, although poorly formatted and not having enough info. It allows students who are undocumented to know that there are other undocumented students here and that there are pathways for them to arrive here.”
Undocumented students have faced criticism regarding attempts to enjoy full rights; rights secured by their classmates purely by virtue of citizenship. However, most undocumented students have lived in the United States for as long as they can recall, and fight tooth and nail for a fair shot at what American citizens hold as their birthright.