A guide for career service offices to ensure strong career counseling support for undocumented students.
In this Article:
1. Be Partners in the Work.
Strong Career Services professionals commit to do their own, ongoing work. Awareness and reflection is key when facing biases, as well as understanding the strengths and weaknesses career service professionals bring in supporting all undocumented students (Undocumented, DACA, TPS, and students transitioning statuses). Being welcoming and inclusive of race, gender identity, and sexual orientation will create a safer space for students to potentially share their immigration status.
- Naming some of these assets and challenges with colleagues via a survey or focus group can better prioritize your time working together into short, mid term and long term goals.
- This can also double as the skeleton to a strategic plan.
Provide and encourage participation in your college/university training or national organizations’ training and updates on legislation.
- Don’t reinvent the wheel during the pandemic, just modify some things or invite experts to provide UndocuAlly Training.
- The President’s Alliance on Higher Education & Immigration have frequent, practical webinars.
If there is a university-wide task force, working group or committee to support undocumented students, ask if a career center representative can join.
In addition to providing staff-wide spaces for education, reflection, action, and advocacy, you can integrate a commitment to these practices into performance goals. You can begin looking for this commitment as a part of your center’s recruiting and hiring planning (explicitly listing commitment to DEI in job descriptions, integrating it into interview questions, valuing lived experience as relevant experience rather than relying exclusively on the kinds of professional backgrounds you usually do when hiring).
Recognize it takes time, effort and consistency to build trust with the undocumented student community. Show commitment by being present at community events and supporting the office(s), student organzation(s) and individuals on campus whose primary role it is to serve undocumented/DACA/TPS students on issues outside of career development and employment.
Leverage career champions or career influencers network model as a way to equip faculty/staff with the trusted relationships and/or most direct/frequent access to undocumented and DACA/TPS students with key messages and resources from the career center.
Develop a process for effective referrals between faculty/staff who work closely with undocumented/DACA/TPS students and your center (e.g., warm hand-off to a specific individual as opposed to sending students to the career center website) and use it!
Connect with working graduates who identify as fully undocumented and DACA /TPS holders and find out to what extent they perceive their employers, former internship sites, or graduate schools (partictuarly regarding funding) to be undocufriendly. (Note: pandemic-era friendly is different than pre-pandemic friendly)
- This part is tricky because sometimes only the HR personnel knows the status of employees and the experience with HR is reported as amazing. However, a recruiter on the career services-facing side may not even know their own company is undocufriendly or has a lot of DACAmented employees.
- Narrow down potential employment opportunities by compiling undocufriendly employers from alumni surveys, word of mouth, those who have publicly supported pro immigration/immigrant legislation, volunteer/give money to immigrant-serving non-profit organizations, etc.
- Your recruiting team can connect with companies and recruiters to ask about potential partnerships or available positions within the company/non profit/etc. (*They are not stating, “Hey, we hear you hire a lot of Undoc/TPS/DACA recipients!” This could obviously have a potentially negative impact on employees. This idea here is just to narrow down an internal list of potential employers to contact.)
2. Get Creative
Each college or university has strengths and weaknesses when creating on campus and off campus opportunities for students. Find your strengths and build on them.
- For example, you may have a lot of access to internships, but they are unpaid. Look into developing a funding source that provides scholarships for unpaid internships or create new student-centered fellowships (on-campus research centers are ideal sites) that undocumented students can be included in. Also think about credit hours for involvement and tuition assistance for work in your office or career services.
- Career fair revenue, Giving Day campaigns and external and internal/university grants (e.g., University Parents Fund) can be used to fund a scholarship for unpaid internships for which undocumented students would be eligible to apply.
- Virtual, short-term experiences can greatly support students who may otherwise have children to care for, transportation limitations, or work multiple jobs already.
- You could connect with entrepreneurship groups on campus to provide resources and programming to help undocumented students learn more about starting their own businesses.
- Through education, supervisor training and skill/performance assessment tools, promote the enhancement of on-campus student employment as career building experiences.
3. Center Students with Clear, Consistent Communication
We hear this one a lot! Make sure in all advertisement/marketing materials/ websites you share which opportunities are explicitly open to whom. State clearly and consistently that an opportunity is available to all students, including students who are undocumented or hold DACA, TPS. Some opportunities state this as “regardless of citizenship status”.
- If you are not sure, call the employers directly and ask. Some are open and never updated their website or they can be convinced to be openly inclusive! Public support is meaningful for undocumented communities.
- Employers who ask for support from the career center because their application numbers are low or those who express a desire to recruit your diverse students might be most receptive to a conversation about adding this language.
- For various reasons, some may not be undocufriendly publicly, consider designing a graphic that you and students know to look for while scrolling online or visiting a career fair.
- In partnership with undocumented student specialist on your campus, reach out to an employer to educate/advocate for an individual student/alum (e.g., that they create a post-grad fellowship, enabling them to compensate a recent graduate on a project basis as opposed to as an employee, how to hire independent contractor on ITIN).
Consider advertising opportunities that are available and inclusive of undocumented students in an internal newsletter advertised to directly impacted students with opportunities that center them. Campus partners who work directly with impacted students can support you to connect opportunities with students.
- For example, at GU, student senators created and launched a new UndocuHoya newsletter to communicate resources and opportunities that may have been shared informally and in person pre-pandemic.
- Communication like this can also be a great way to keep partners on campus (e.g., Deans, multicultural equity/access office staff) in the loop so they can help spread information directly to students who need it.
Build a webpage for undocumented students (and other marginalized communities) that can be easily found through your career center.
- Relevant topics for a web page include ways to gain experience, information on disclosing (or not disclosing) status, graduate school resources, list of undocufriendly employers, employment opportunities including independent contracting and LLCs, funding sources for supporting unpaid opportunities, additional resources at your university for undocumented students.
- Go beyond a list of resources and links to offer insights and guidance as well.
Have clear policies and communication plans in place regarding organizations that are not undocufriendly and whose work is very much not supportive of people identifying as undocumented but who may wish to visit a career fair or post a position on your platform. Legal counsel, students who identify as undocumented, student affairs staff can all be partners here.
- Working With Undocumented/DACAmented Students (National Association of Colleges and Employers)
- Tenuous Options: The Career Development Process for Undocumented Students
- Immigrants Rising: Income Generation Options for Undocumented Students (includes a FAQ section for university administrators working with students)
- TheDream.US Employment Guide for DREAMers
- TheDream.US Employment Guide for Employers
- The Dream.US Dreamers in the Workforce
Saskia Campbell, Executive Director, University Career Services, George Mason University
Jennifer Crewalk, Associate Director, Undocumented Student Services, Georgetown University
Beth Harlan, Associate Director, Cawley Career Education Center, Georgetown University