For years, the University of Maryland had an employee dedicated to helping students who are undocumented immigrants, but it was a temporary position that, each year, students had to fight to keep alive.
In February, the university announced the employee’s position would be expanded to serve first-generation and transfer students, too. The undocumented student coordinator, Laura Bohorquez Garcia, rejected the new contract.
Now, the position has changed yet again. There will be a “Program Coordinator for Immigrant and Undocumented Student Life,” in addition to a coordinator for first-generation and off-campus students, said Marsha Guenzler-Stevens, the Stamp Student Union director.
The new positions will be permanently funded and housed under the student engagement team of Stamp.
The Supreme Court’s decision on the legality of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — which protects undocumented immigrants who arrived in the country as children — is coming as soon as this summer. And Guenzler-Stevens said she recognizes this decision could affect hundreds of students’ financial situations, mental health and housing.
“We know that belonging is probably one of the most significant constructs of success and well being in college,” she said. “And so how do we make you feel like you belong? Not just in college, but you belong to a community of people who care about you.”
Bohorquez Garcia will still leave in June as planned, but the individual who ultimately takes this position will provide support for the unique needs of immigrant and undocumented students — financial, legal or otherwise — just as she did. In addition, they will work to make the students feel welcome in the greater university community.
“My experience in this process did not align with my values and therefore not taking the offer is the best decision for me,” Bohorquez Garcia wrote in an email obtained by The Diamondback addressing student concerns to campus groups such as Political Latinxs United for Movement and Action in Society.
The university will launch a national search for both positions, and student input will be taken into account, Guenzler-Stevens said.
The search will begin with a committee composed of students, faculty and staff, which will conduct the initial vetting of candidates. Then, candidates will be brought to campus so students have an opportunity to engage with them through forums.