The University of Maryland’s UndocuTerp Training Program is adding about 15 new trainers to meet increased demand, as attendance at training sessions has doubled since President Trump’s election.
The training informs staff and faculty about how to effectively respond to undocumented students’ needs. In collaboration with the Office of Diversity & Inclusion, coordinators of the program are training about 15 staff and faculty members to begin facilitating their own sessions.
UndocuTerp sessions are held about once a month, alternating between Session I, which gives an overview of the policies that shape undocumented students’ lives, and Session II, where undocumented students share personal stories with the audience, said Yvette Lerma Jones, coordinator for Latinx Student Involvement & Advocacy. Teacher trainees will attend sessions to watch how they are conducted and each will move at their own pace until they feel comfortable enough to hold their own, Lerma Jones said. Before the fall, the attendance for each training session ranged from about five to 10 people, but the past four trainings had more than 20 people each, she said.
Lerma Jones — who leads the training sessions with Kristina Mascareñas, graduate coordinator for Asian American & Pacific Islander Student Involvement & Advocacy — launched the program in fall 2014 after arriving on campus and finding that there wasn’t many resources that helped staff and faculty members learn how to “better serve undocumented students,” she said.
There were 113 DACA students at this university in fall 2016. DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, is a 2012 Obama-administration policy that allowed some undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children to work and study for 2-year intervals with protection from deportation. Twenty students at this university were covered as of fall 2016 by Maryland’s DREAM Act, a law that grants in-state tuition to undocumented students who meet certain guidelines.
Offices and departments, including the Career Center and Education Abroad, have requested for Lerma Jones to hold sessions with them, in addition to the general sessions available every month.
Some offices have also required or strongly encouraged their members to attend the monthly sessions. The Counseling Center, for example, aims to have its entire staff to complete the training by the end of this year, according to María Berbery, a staff psychologist.
“A huge piece of it has been the political climate,” Lerma Jones said. “I know there’s some [offices] that have been saying, ‘Oh, we’re going to do this,’ … but since the election I’ve seen a lot more staff interest in making sure their [offices] are well prepared to answer some of these questions.”
Trump campaigned with a hardline stance on immigration, promising to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border to curb illegal entry. On Feb. 21, the Department of Homeland Security announced new immigration plans that will keep DACA intact but expand deportation efforts and calls for stronger enforcement of immigration laws.
At this university, campus groups expressed concern for the future of undocumented students in the aftermath of Trump’s election. In November, ProtectUMD, a coalition of 25 student groups and activists, issued a set of 64 demands to university administration for new resources, programs and initiatives to serve marginalized populations, including ten demands for undocumented students. The coalition called for protections of in-state tuition benefits for DACA students, a sanctuary campus designation and a full-time immigration attorney in the Offices of Undergraduate and Graduate Student Legal Aid.
On Monday, the university announced the creation of an undocumented student coordinator position, which was also one of the coalitions demands.
Christina Getrich, an anthropology professor who researches immigration, attended her first session in the fall because she was interested how faculty could be better resources for undocumented students, she said. She is currently training to become a session facilitator to “give people more background on immigration policy.”
“[The training] engages people where they are,” Getrich said. “Some people walk in the room, like myself, knowing a lot about the topic and the policies that shape immigrants’ lives, and other people with open hearts and a desire to help, but maybe not the specific information about how to go about doing that … [Lerma Jones] creates a good space for coming together regardless where you are.”
Lerma Jones said her goal is to create a “network of staff and faculty who are willing to participate not only in the training, but holding the training in their [offices].”
Janelle Wong, director of the Asian American Studies Program, said attending the training program helped her connect with other people who were interested in supporting undocumented students.
Wong worked with Stamp’s Office of Multicultural Involvement and Community Advocacy to launch a website in December 2016 that connects undocumented students with resources they need. Since attending an UndocuTerp session, Wong said she has been asked to conduct several trainings herself.
“We are now in a political moment when many students on campus feel quite vulnerable and have a lot of questions,” Wong said. “It is extremely important … for faculty and staff to know best practices, to know the issues and to keep up with the changing legal landscape.”