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By Staff Writers

Published on August 27, 2021

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Navigating college life can be stressful — especially for undocumented students who are concerned about their immigration status. To understand the various legal considerations undocumented students may face during college, we spoke with a legal expert to discuss helpful tips and legal resources that are important for undocumented students to know.

Interview With Career Expert Maritza Agundez, Esq.

Maritza is the Deputy Director of Legal Affairs at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA). In her current role at CHIRLA, she provides legal advice, interpretation, and guidance to senior management and directors regarding government contracts, state/federal regulatory requirements, and compliance. She has over 15 years of experience in nonprofit management and supervises a team of attorneys, paralegals, accredited representatives, and subcontractors. Prior to CHIRLA, Maritza worked at the Mexican Consulate where she managed legal immigration intakes at mobile consulate locations throughout Los Angeles County. Maritza received her juris doctorate from Southwestern Law School, where she received two CALI awards in Property and Legal Professions and was a Federal Judicial extern to the Honorable S. James Otero.

What is the current status of DACA? Do you believe the promise for progress from the Biden administration?

The current status of DACA is being determined by an ongoing court case in a Texas federal court. As of now, everyone can apply for DACA but first-time applicants will be put on hold and the result of those applications is unknown. There is no change to renewal applications, and people with DACA should renew and may still request travel under advance parole.

The Biden administration provided an initial reaction to the court case stating it would comply but provide a more robust response in the future. The administration also continues its support the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, which would provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented people in the U.S., including an expedited process for DACA recipients.

Are undocumented students protected on college campuses? Are there ways institutions can legally protect undocumented students?

Each state has a different approach regarding undocumented students. I practice and am licensed in the state of California. On California campuses, student immigrants benefit from the protection of SB54 — a law in California that prevents use of local or state police resources for federal immigration enforcement.

Institutions can contribute to this protection by providing adequate training and issuing best practices to all local law enforcement and private security used on campuses. In addition, institutions can invite legal service providers to present to campuses about your rights on campus and invite law enforcement to be part of the outreach events, as well.

What resources or materials should undocumented student have in case of legal challenges?

CHIRLA recommends that individuals arm themselves with red cards, which contain important information and directions about enforcing constitutional rights when faced with law enforcement.

All students should also have a list of phone numbers or contact information for a local attorney, nonprofit, or their county's rapid response network information — in which most California counties have a phone number available to the public-facing imminent immigration action and can put the caller in touch with one of their volunteer attorneys.

What educational opportunities are available for advocates of undocumented students?

There are many sources of information for advocates of undocumented students. CHIRLA will be presenting at the Undocu-Wisdom Workshop Series during the fall of 2021. Details will be provided, but topics include updates to DACA, use of ITIN and working without documentation, and rights in the workplace.

There are also webinars available from other nonprofit organizations, such as the Immigration Legal Resource Center and American Immigration Lawyers Association, many of which are free. Finally, CHIRLA recommends viewing its channel on YouTube, as there are numerous videos discussing a host of immigration topics relevant to the lives of our undocumented students.

Editor's Note: This article contains general information and is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Please consult a professional advisor before making decisions about legal issues.

Feature Image: Luis Alvarez / DigitalVision / Getty Images

Read this guide to learn about the important documents and steps undocumented students must complete to apply for the DACA program. Explore mental health challenges for undocumented students and get tips to help manage stress, anxiety, and marginalization. When it comes to race and status, Black undocumented students encounter many challenges. Read this interview to learn more about their experiences.