UndocuCarolina, a project of UNC-Chapel Hill faculty and students, has begun to host “Campus Ally” training sessions to inform the UNC-Chapel Hill community about current immigration policies and to share resources for supporting undocumented and DACAmented students on the Carolina campus. The last training was held in November 2018 and the group will host more sessions on February 21, 2019 and April 18, 2019.
UndocuCarolina was awarded a grant from the Humanities for the Public Good, an initiative intended to recognize and catalyze publicly engaged scholarly activity among humanists and humanistic social scientists at UNC-Chapel Hill, with funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and support from the Institute for Arts & Humanities. The group has also received support from UNC Global.
Barbara Sostaita, a third-year doctoral student in the Department of Religious Studies in UNC College of Arts & Sciences, is one of the co-founders of UndocuCarolina. After the 2016 elections, Sostaita says, “many Carolina faculty members met to brainstorm what comes next. We wanted to be proactive and identify ways we could alleviate some of the fears and concerns of affected students and staff.”
That initial brainstorming session soon produced results, including a community roundtable at the FedEx Global Education Center about the DACA decision of September 2017; a task force for undocumented and DACAmented issues led by Executive Vice Provost Ron Strauss and Elizabeth Barnum; and the formation of UndocuCarolina, which Sostaita organized along with co-founders Todd Ochoa, an associate professor in the Department of Religious Studies; Angela Stuesse, an assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology; Rubi Franco Quiroz, a recent Carolina graduate; and Ricky Hurtado, co-director of LatinxEd, an education-focused non-profit supporting Latinx immigrant families in North Carolina.
“I came to the United States when I was six years old, and until college didn’t have any legal status,” Sostaita says. “The motivation [in organizing the trainings] was to create resources that didn’t exist when I was an undergrad. There were no institutional structures or programs in place, and I was in desperate need of something like UndocuCarolina. I want to help students like me.”
Each session is led by the UndocuCarolina team, UNC-Chapel Hill faculty members, and Raul Pinto, a staff attorney at the North Carolina Justice Center. During these ally trainings, participants receive an overview of relevant terminology, hear stories from UNC-Chapel Hill undocumented and DACAmented students on how new policies shape their academic experiences, learn how changes to legal policy affect the opportunities of undocumented students, and join interactive case study situations to gain hands-on experience responding to different scenarios. In compiling materials for the sessions, Sostaita and her colleagues took inspiration from similar trainings held at the University of South Florida, George Mason University, the University of California-Berkeley and United We Dream, a youth-led immigration advocacy network.
“The response so far has been tremendous,” Sostaita says. “The first training earlier this fall filled up quickly, and we had to ask people to sign up for the second training on November 26. Many participants have asked to share the training with their offices and have requested personalized trainings for their specific teams. It’s great to see such enthusiasm from our campus.”
Looking ahead, Sostaita says she hopes to eventually expand the trainings to undergraduate and graduate students as well. In addition to the “Campus Ally” trainings, UndocuCarolina is also developing a website that will serve as a resource hub for prospective, current and former undocumented students.
“People sometimes think there’s nothing they can do in their position to help undocumented staff and students, but the major takeaway from our program is that no matter who you are, you can do something to support our community of undocumented and DACAmented students,” Sostaita says. “Even if it’s as simple as switching your language from saying ‘illegal’ to saying ‘undocumented’ or sharing some of the resources you learn about during the training, you are in a position to help these students.”
Humanities for the Public Good is a four-year, $1.5 million initiative intended to recognize and catalyze publicly engaged scholarly activity among humanists and humanistic social scientists at UNC-Chapel Hill, with funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and support from the Institute for Arts & Humanities at UNC.
By Jamie Gnazzo ’13