This April marked the soft launch of our Pop-Up DREAM Center, a resource center for USC’s undocumented and DACAmented students, staff, faculty, and others. It has been made possible by the Department of American Studies & Ethnicity, the IDEAS Movement at USC, the Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration, and the Center for Urban Education.
Events that will be held there include support groups, immigration clinics, stress management and self-care workshops, and general office hours. Students can drop by anytime they want a couple days a week. IDEAS Movement students will be staffing the center when there are no planned events.
Vanessa Gomez Brake, our point person supporting our DREAMers, holds office hours in the Pop-Up DREAM Center to provide various kinds of confidential support. As a humanist chaplain, she can provide emotional support. She says that often the “simple act of presence” can mean a lot to this vulnerable student population. She can also refer students to Jennifer Macias, Niels Frenzen, and the USC Gould Immigration Clinic for legal concerns. The team at the Gould immigration clinic has helped process ten DACA renewal applications in just the last month. Vanessa can also help answer financial aid questions – or can find the best person to answer them – and can help students navigate our own bureaucracy.
She says that the primary concern of our undocumented and DACA students is that, for them, there is “always uncertainty about the future.” Even if we succeed at USC in creating a safe space for their studies, there is – as of today – no guarantee for their future after graduation. Congress has not found a legislative solution and it remains unclear when this might happen and even what a solution might look like. So, our affected students often wonder, what if I graduate and then can’t work? Should I even be going to USC? What is the point of all this sacrifice? Vanessa says the daily challenge of these existential questions can weigh heavily on these students, and depressive episodes are not unusual.
I am proud of this center and of the students and faculty that worked together to make it a reality. All of our students deserve a safe space to study and an equal chance to contribute to society after they graduate.
Faculty, as students entrust themselves to you and seek guidance, please refer them to this center, or directly to Vanessa. Encourage them to bring an ally for support when they go.
And let them know that USC supports them and values them. I was in Washington, D.C. last week with a delegation from USC that included the president and members of the Board of Trustees, and we continued to lobby Congress on their behalf. We will look out for these, and all, members of our Trojan Family.
— Michael W. Quick, April 23, 2018