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Colleges and universities have opportunities to support undocumented students in many ways. A new guide published by Fwd.us in September 2021, Investing in Social Support Systems Will Enhance the Higher Ed Experience for Students Directly Affected by Immigration, identifies key ways for colleges and universities to support students directly affected by immigration through systems that consider the students’ mental, physical, and social wellness. Students directly affected by the immigration system include undocumented students, DACA recipients, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) holders, and U.S. citizens or green card holders in mixed-status families with undocumented parents or siblings.

The guide proposed three types of social infrastructure that institutions could consider implementing to support their students who are directly affected by immigration: peer support, mentorship, and family engagement. The guide recommends each of these support systems should be offered in a culturally responsive way – making sure programming is implemented with a keen consideration of students’ varied backgrounds and experiences – which may include specific cultural understandings of topics such as mental health, interactions with the criminal justice system or crimmigration system, family separation, a history of cultural erasure, or living in an ongoing fight for legislation that will protect them and their families.

  • Peer Support: Peer support occurs when a group of individuals with similar lived experiences comes together to give and receive help based on the knowledge that comes from those lived experiences.
  • Mentorship: Mentorship can be valuable to undocumented students and other directly affected students whether they are mentors or mentees. Students who are directly affected by the immigration system have unique experiences and knowledge, particularly when it comes to navigating higher education.
  • Family Engagement: Creating opportunities for parents to understand higher education experiences and processes can help ease the burden of students feeling like they are alone in their education. In addition, offering resources to students’ undocumented family members can take some of the pressure off of students who are not only providing for their families financially but who are also mentally and emotionally taxed thinking about their families’ safety.

You can find the PDF version of the guide here.

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