WNPR

Immigration Advocates Worry Students Would Be Targeted for Deportation

Dec 19, 2016

Carolina Bortolleto came to the U.S. from Brazil when she was nine. She knew she was undocumented, but she didn't realize exactly what that meant until she went to apply for college.

"You don't qualify for financial aid," she said, "you don't qualify for most scholarships, you can't legally work, you can't get a driver's license, you don't have a social security number. So you keep coming up against all these barriers."

She graduated in 2010 and now she helps run Connecticut Students for a Dream. It's a nonprofit that advocates for the rights of students who might be in the country illegally.

In Connecticut, several hundred students who are in the country illegally take advantage of a federal program that delays deportation, and allows them to work and go to school. But advocates for these students say they are worried about the future under a Donald Trump presidency. 

Bortolleto is one of hundreds of current college students and graduates who are here through the DACA program, which stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. It's basically a two-year visa for people who came to the U.S. as children.

This means that the federal government has her information, and she worries that a Donald Trump administration could use that to deport DACA students and applicants.

Colleges across the state have pledged to protect these students.

"This is an issue that keeps me awake at night," said Mark Ojakian, president of Connecticut State Colleges and Universities, the state's 17-college system. "I'm going to be there every step of the way for these students." 

Ojakian said he's waiting to see what a Trump administration would actually do before taking any specific actions. Other schools, such as UConn, Connecticut College, and Wesleyan University, have made strong commitments to students who are here illegally. This includes refusing to allow immigration enforcement officials onto campus without a warrant.