UT student organizations join forces to welcome undocumented students

Emily Hernandez

Students flocked to the Multicultural Engagement Center Monday evening for Campus CommUNITY, an event geared toward helping undocumented students find a safe space as well as professional and academic resources on campus. 

The event, which was co-hosted by University Leadership Initiative and the Monarch Student Program, offered informational flyers, free halal food, raffles and a speaker from both organizations.

“I hope undocumented students see that there are other undocumented students and allies here for them,” said Beca Hernandez, ULI board member and human development senior. 

ULI is available for both undocumented students and allies to join, but MSP is an exclusive academic program for undocumented students. Speaking as a member of both ULI and MSP, Jamie Turcios-Villalta said she wants to educate undocumented students and DACA recipients on the available campus resources, such as the newly offered MSP scholarships for undocumented students due Sept. 17. 

“A lot of (undocumented students) don’t qualify for scholarships and (MSP) saw that lacking in this university, so last semester we decided to hold a fundraiser for a scholarship,” health and society junior Villalta said.

ULI board member Karla Peredo said ULI was “thrilled” when the MSP asked to co-host the event.

“The tight-knit organization immediately became not only a safe haven, but a center for leadership growth, policy education, progressive circles, extensive community service and a place of empowerment,” said Peredo, an international relations and global studies and government senior, in an email.

According to Peredo, ULI has a busy year ahead that includes plans to host DACA renewal clinics, such as the upcoming one on Sept. 29. ULI is also working on putting together a “DREAM” center on campus that will have an adviser as well as a lawyer for undocumented students. 

Graduate student Nong Xiong works in the MSP and said she hopes to connect undocumented students to the resources necessary to support their undergraduate journey.

“I have met too many students who have missed out on great opportunities because of the lack of connection and information,” Xiong said. “Sometimes, being part of the undocumented community means that you are kind of invisible to UT.” 

Israel Guerrero, UT alumnus and former ULI member, attended the event to promote the advantages of joining ULI. 

“This space is here for you,” Guerrero said. “There’s no other space at the University for people who are undocumented.”