Hannah Eason, News Editor
Sarah Elson, Contributing Writer
After immigrating to the United States at eight years old, VCU senior Yanet Limon-Amado is advocating for the rights of undocumented students.
She founded UndocuRams, a community support group that aims to secure financial aid for undocumented students at VCU. The group is raising money for a community-based scholarship for undocumented students at the university.
“We just really don’t know what’s going to happen next,” Limon-Amado said of the current political climate surrounding immigration. “If we can do something, even at a really grassroot level, it’s something being done.”
Tuesday was the fourth annual “I Stand with Immigrants” Day. UndocuRams participated — along with more than 185 colleges and universities across the country — with an event in the Compass that gave attendees the option to write why they choose to “stand” with immigrants.
In November, the Supreme Court will begin hearing oral arguments to weigh the legality of the Trump administration’s decision to terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, also known as DACA. The policy, passed in 2012 during the Obama administration, protected hundreds of thousands of immigrants from deportation if they passed a background check and applied for a work permit.
Undocumented students are not eligible for federal student aid, including money from FASFA. They also pay out-of-state tuition in many states, including Virginia.
Gabrielle Pasche, an UndocuRams member and international relations major, said financial assistance is often needed for undocumented students.
“That’s something a lot of people don’t know,” Pasche said. “They think that we get handouts and free tuition when in reality we don’t get in-state tuition, and we have to pay out-of-state tuition.”
To offset tuition costs, UndocuRams is raising the money for two $1,000 scholarships; each will be given to undocumented students next semester. The group has raised more than $500 so far.
Limon-Amado says the establishment of a scholarship was one of her proudest moments since starting the organization.
“It’s all community,” Limon-Amado said, “which is even more beautiful.”
This semester, the University of Virginia began providing financial aid to in-state undergraduate students with DACA status. According to the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, it is up to individual universities to decide admission policies for undocumented and DACA students, the Daily Progress reported.
“If they can do it and they are super conservative, then there’s no reason for basically a liberal arts college that’s super progressive not to be able to do it,” Pasche said.
Part of UndocuRams’ activities includes talking to the VCU administration about the “daily life” of undocumented students, Pasche said.
First-generation college student Luis Hermenez said he came to the “I Stand With Immigrants Day” event to promote his culture.
“We are out here to promote the immigrant part of VCU,” Hermenez said. “All of us that come from immigrants, such as my family and I, we’re just out here trying to promote our families, promote us as a culture.”