Creating an open and welcoming environment for undocumented youth

January 12, 2016
  • AACRAO Connect
  • Compliance and Reporting
Photo of a red brick building with a fountain in front of it.
In an effort to assist members in integrating their policies with new federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recommendations, AACRAO is conducting a multi-part series on the recently released DACA resource guide. (For previous articles, see: "Building staff capacity to support undocumented youth" and "How one college is improving services to undocumented youth.

To help institutions integrate their policies with the updated federal DACA recommendations, the U.S. Education Department released an updated resource guide late last year. The guide, designed for educators and community organizations as well as youth and their families, includes an overview of the rights of undocumented students, tips for educators on how to support undocumented youth in high school and college, information on federal financial aid, a list of private scholarships, guidance for students applying for DACA consideration or renewal, as well as tips and example models for addressing the needs of undocumented students in higher education. 

This article focuses on the model for Creating Open and Welcoming Environments.

Federal guidelines recommend institutions achieve this by:

  • Embracing and valuing diversity and the cultural backgrounds of all students.
  • Withholding judgement and biases about immigration status.
  • Establish safe spaces that allow undocumented youth to share freely, engage with, and lead their peers.

UCLA achieves these goals through its Dream Resource Center. Launched in 2011, this branch of the larger UCLA Labor Center connects immigrant youth with access to higher education information and movement training. The Center's mission is to empower immigrant youth to pursue their dreams and be at the “forefront of national conversations that directly impact their lives and families.” As such, the Center not only serves as a UCLA sanctioned safe space, where DACA student diversity is embraced and engaged, but where that is possible without judgement or fear of retribution from I.C.E.

Empowering students through social justic internships

The larger UCLA Labor Center is also unique nationwide for its efforts to connect immigrant students with internships in social justice and movement building on a wide range of relevant issues through Dream Summer. This program places participants with partner organizations in various locations across the country for ten weeks to work exclusively on connecting undocumented immigrant issues into the organizations broader work. Participants receive a monetary award for their efforts and completion of the program. 

The UCLA Dream Resource Center also provides national research, education and policy innovation around immigration issues. Combined with Dream Summer’s unique approach to student leadership development, this program serves as a laudable model for the type of strong impact institutions can have when they dedicate resources and space to immigrant students for sharing, engaging and leading.


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