Courtesy of John Rojas

Portland State community pushes for Dream Success Center

Two speakers went before Portland State’s Board of Trustees to discuss the creation of a Dream success center at PSU on June 20.

Vice President of Global Diversity and Inclusion Julie Caron and faculty member Oscar Fernandez spoke on behalf of DREAM PSU, a student-run organization that aims to build support, resources and a sense of community for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students at PSU. 

The DACA program was implemented by former President Barack Obama. DACA temporarily grants its recipients—young immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children—protection from deportation. DACA recipients are often referred to as “Dreamers.”

According to Caron, DREAM PSU is envisioning “the possibility of providing a center to gather and create community [for DACA students]…to provide a mission and financial aid assistance,” as well as advising specialists and connecting students with resources.

The Trump administration attempted to end DACA in 2017, but federal judges ruled that major elements of the program must remain in place as the program is legally evaluated. The Supreme Court will decide if the Trump administration can shut down the program most likely in the spring or summer of 2020.

PSU is a sanctuary campus, meaning Campus Public Safety officers don’t enforce federal immigration laws. PSU faculty, staff and students are not required to consent to immigration enforcement activities on campus or provide confidential student information. Portland has also been declared a sanctuary city, indicating that Portland Police do not enforce federal immigration laws.

Interim President Stephen Percy sent out an email to PSU students, faculty and staff on June 25 emphasizing PSU’s committed support to Dreamer students. 

“We want to do everything we can at PSU to make all of our students feel welcome and supported regardless of their national origin or immigration status,” Percy stated. “You belong at PSU.” 

He also mentioned the university’s current resources for Dreamer students as well as the possibility of the creation of a Dreamer center.

A Dream Success Center, as Caron and Percy referred to it, would allow undocumented students to find all the resources and support they may need without getting “bumped around to different places,” according to Caron.

“We would have a central location where students and prospective students can get their information and be able to create community together.” 

The center would be similar to other resource centers already established at PSU through diversity and multicultural services, which assist students with academic and holistic support.

As it stands, most information and resources for undocumented students can be found on the Dreamers webpage on the PSU website. The page includes many links to information and resources for undocumented students. 

“A website is not going to be sufficient,” Caron said. “It also doesn’t give the personal connection.”

Fernandez, academic advisor for DREAM PSU, read a letter written by the students at DREAM PSU aloud to the Board on behalf of the organization, as many students involved with DREAM PSU were away for the summer vacation. DREAM PSU was scheduled to present to the Board of Trustees during their meeting on May 13 but were removed from the agenda and rescheduled for June 20.

The letter listed a set of demands that “aim to create a safe, supportive, welcoming and inclusive space for DACA, undocumented and students who have mix status families” at PSU. 

The demands include: PSU not facilitate or consent to immigration enforcement activities on campus; the disarmament of campus police; progress toward the creation and funding of a Dreamer Success Center; assistance with academic, financial, emotional and legal support for undocumented students; and the implementation of a training program for PSU faculty, staff and students in leadership positions on how to actively support undocumented students.

According to Caron, the next steps toward the creation of a Dream Success Center will be to meet with Dreamer students to learn about their vision for a center, identifying resources and finding spaces and other locations on campus that would be a good fit to house the center. 

“It will take some steps and some time and some finding of resources, but we’re very excited, and we’re committed to moving forward to being able to create a center that will give the ability for our Dreamers to connect together and get the resources they need,” Caron concluded.

Portland Community College has already established a Dreamer center at the Rock Creek campus, where undocumented students can find resources and receive financial and legal support. DREAM PSU will partly model a PSU Dream Success Center after PCC’s, as well as “develop a transfer success program in partnership with PCC and other community colleges to prepare future PSU student Dreamers for a smooth transition to the university level,” according to DREAM PSU’s letter to the Board.

According to Percy, more information will be available about PSU’s potential Dreamer Success Center next fall.