While the fate of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program remains in the balance, Albion College is striving to give its undocumented students confidentiality and access to resources, from healthcare to scholarships.
Staff, faculty and students work to protect undocumented students from deportation, much like DACA protects young immigrants from deportation with temporary authorized status. Campus leaders also provide those students resources and support while educating Albion’s campus on those students’ rights and confidentialities.
“If a student is a citizen or non-citizen or a DACA [student], we still have the same responsibility for them,” said Ken Snyder, Campus Safety director. “We provide the same services.”
In May 2018, the Supreme Court refused to hear a case on DACA’s status, delaying its fate until at least late fall. Over 700,000 young U.S. residents could face deportation if the program is terminated.
Albion College is restricted from publicly releasing a student’s citizenship status under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. Only subpoenas can force a college to reveal private student information like citizenship. Additionally, a college must do its best to notify students and their parents if it’s going to reveal information.
Albion may release a student’s private information if a public safety or health crisis involving the student makes it necessary. Snyder cannot see the need to release a student’s citizenship information under those circumstances, though.
Snyder said that Albion has students’ citizenship statuses on file but “95 percent” of the college and faculty do not know any student’s citizenship status.
“We don’t really discuss citizenship, and it’s not because we’re afraid somebody’s going to find out something — I mean, there’s concern in that — but it’s just not really relevant to our work,” he said.
Albion students’ citizenship statuses are collected when they apply for the college through the Common Application, a college application used by over 700 U.S. colleges and universities. According to CollegeVine, a college admissions advising organization, most institutions ask for citizenship status to determine if a student is eligible for Federal Student Aid. Albion is one such college.
Some colleges, universities and states have policies that deny undocumented students on the grounds of having no citizenship. Only three states have these prohibitive laws, and few colleges have these prohibitive policies. Albion is not one of them.
Some colleges may deem these students “international” rather than “domestic,” making them ineligible for scholarships offered by the college. Albion grants all students access to its merit scholarships. Other Albion scholarships and grants are available, too, depending on their requirements.
All students may receive free healthcare through Student Health Services and free counseling from Counseling Services. Students are guaranteed confidentiality at both centers under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
Students will need to pay for on-campus healthcare services when Student Health Services is phased out and replaced with Marshall-based Oaklawn Hospital services in February 2019. Oaklawn has stated it will care for students regardless of citizenship.
If a non-citizen student, or any other student without insurance in Michigan, cannot receive the care they need, Cheryl Krause, director of Student Health Services, said to call her.
Alternative low-cost care connections in Marshall
Krause has years of experience working with Calhoun County health resources. It’s allowed her to connect with the Fountain Clinic, a volunteer health facility in Marshall.
The Fountain Clinic is staffed by volunteer physicians, physician assistants and nurse practitioners. The clinic offers charitable care for uninsured people ineligible for health insurance.
The clinic also has connections with some dentists, opticians and drug companies, so students may receive dental care, eye care and prescriptions — save for controlled substances, like Adderall — at little to no cost.
Rides to the Fountain Clinic are provided by Campus Safety. Students are not required to disclose their reasons to attend the facility.
Krause, though, said it’s important that students call her to schedule an appointment if Student Health Services cannot meet their needs. Many charitable care facilities receive federal funding, and she worries that students may find their citizenship information in unwanted hands.
Such a situation may arise when Oaklawn replaces Student Health Services. Oaklawn will transfer medical services from its B-Drive location on the outskirts of Albion to the ground floor of Albion College’s Munger Hall on Michigan Avenue.
Krause, who will serve as the college’s health liaison in the year following the transition, said that Oaklawn officials have told her that the hospital takes care of undocumented U.S. residents all the time. She is not sure how Oaklawn handles citizenship information, though.
“I just have to believe them, but it makes me nervous,” she said.
Krause and an Oaklawn official will answer healthcare questions at a to-be-determined Student Senate meeting in the coming weeks.
Committee educates public, shares resources for DACA students
Despite protections and health resources, some U.S. students without citizenship on campus may feel unsafe, in need of additional resources or may need someone to confide in. Other members of campus may not know what to do if a student reveals their citizenship status to them.
The Undocumented Student Support Committee (USSC) can be a place they turn toward.
Lynn Verduzco-Baker, professor of anthropology and sociology, is a member. USSC is an ad hoc committee, meaning it has no budget and can only offer suggestions to Albion College. College administration cares about the issues the committee addresses and has been responsive to its requests, Verduzco-Baker said.
The committee’s goal is to address the most immediate and most serious problems facing students without citizenship first. That first problem was Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
The committee will be sending out postcards to faculty, staff and students for the second year in a row. Each postcard details how to respond to an ICE official’s request to find students without citizenship — essentially, contact Snyder of Campus Safety immediately.
Departments are being encouraged by the committee to reassess their requirements to accommodate non-citizens and low-income students. Some requirements, like internships or travel, may be limited to students with U.S. citizenship, insurance or a means to pay for expenses.
Verduzco-Baker recommends visiting USSC’s page, found on Albion’s website for undocumented student resources and information. Although useful to students, faculty and staff who are supporting undocumented students, she said it’s particularly helpful for students who may not want to out their citizenship status.
“A lot of these students have been very hesitant to out themselves, and that’s one of the reasons why we did the website,” she said. “We tried to make the information accessible without anybody having to reveal themselves.”
The page outlines college policies; financial and personal support and resources; and provides links to outside scholarships and assistance.
“All the work we’re doing benefits many groups of students,” Verduzco-Baker said. “In some way, we’re looking at the most vulnerable group, but then there’s these other layers of students that I think benefit from this.”
UPDATE, 9/25/2018, 11:36 a.m.: A previous iteration of this article followed Associated Press guidelines and did not use the word “undocumented” to refer to students on campus. After speaking with a respected source on the word, the Pleiad decided to use “undocumented.” Certain wordage in the article, including the title, has been changed accordingly.