What are some best practices for supporting undocumented students? These young people face unique challenges as they progress through high school and into adulthood — obtaining a driver's license, applying to college, searching for jobs — but citizenship is a difficult topic to discuss. When educators don't know which of their students may be undocumented, how can they still signal support and provide resources that can help?
In this episode of Walking the Talk, Domonic Rollins talks to Ielaf Altoma and Alma Valverde, co-presidents of the UndocuAllies Initiative at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE), about how to normalize the idea that many young people are undocumented and how to help those students find equitable opportunities. Walking the Talk is a series of video conversations streamed live on Facebook, exploring challenging questions of diversity, inclusion, and identity as they are lived and expressed in the real world. See previous episodes here.
Allying with Undocumented Students: Key Takeaways
Don't ask about citizenship status, but create a safe space that shows you support undocumented students.
- Make sure all students' basic needs around housing, food, and school supplies, are met.
- Provide equitable resources to your students. Introduce them to scholarships and internships that won't ask for a social security number.
- Be frank about whether or not these opportunities are specifically for US citizens. Do this in an unprompted, undisturbed way: "I believe this program is only for US citizens, but this other opportunity is for students of any citizenship status."
- Talk about citizenship as a normal part of identity, similar to race, class, gender, or sexuality. Make it clear that it's normal for a young person not to have citizenship status.