Ngan Tran / Gavel Media

'The Unafraid' Documentary Spotlights Experiences of DACA Students

The Center for Human Rights and International Justice held a screening of the film The Unafraid on Wednesday at Boston College. The Unafraid examines the stories of three DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipients as they attempt to attend college. 

The film takes place in the state of Georgia, which does not allow DACA or undocumented students to attend the top five schools in the state or to receive in-state tuition. Instead, DACA and undocumented students must pay international rates which are three times more expensive. 

Before the start of the film, Center Director Timothy Karcz explained some of the intricacies of DACA, including the requirements to apply. 

To be eligible for DACA, a person must be under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012, have been under the age of 16 when they came to the United States, have lived in the U.S. since June 15, 2007, and have graduated from high school or served in the military. Furthermore, recipients must pay a fee of close to $500, submit their fingerprint and home address, and undergo a background check.

The DACA program is a deferral of prosecution and deportation in two-year increments. During this two-year period, a DACA recipient is protected from deportation, although this can be revoked at any time. The DACA recipient also receives a work permit and a Social Security Card.

However, being a DACA recipient does not change one’s immigration status from illegal to legal. DACA recipients are still considered to be living in the United States illegally, though under a protected status. 

After Karcz’s introduction, there was a brief panel discussion moderated by Professor Raquel Muñiz, an assistant professor at the Lynch School of Education and Human Development and liaison to the law school. Muñiz asked questions of the two panelists: Armando Guerrero Estrada, a Ph.D. candidate at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry, and Carlos Aguilar, a Ph.D. candidate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

The panel opened with a question about what the biggest challenges facing DACAmented and undocumented immigrants face. 

“One obviously is what’s being taught in the classroom and how we are welcoming students to feel as if they are part of the curriculum,” Aguilar said. 

“A lot of fellowships, internships, [and] externships require a social security number and [undocumented immigrants] aren’t able to participate in any of these internships or externships,” Estrada added.

The conversation continued to what private institutions could and should do to support DACAmented and undocumented students. Estrada highlighted the flexibility that private institutions have, especially with endowments, which allows more funding for leadership opportunities for DACA and undocumented students. Aguilar expanded the conversation, posing the question: “What can we do at the K-12 level so that we provide the same opportunities for all students?”

After this introduction, the documentary began. The Unafraid follows the stories of Alejandro, Silvia, and Aldo as they navigate Georgia’s DACA and undocumented laws surrounding higher education. Of the three students whose stories were told, only one was able to attend college.

The documentary interspersed the narratives of the three students with statistics about the DACA program and those who receive a college education. At the end of the film, the documentary explains that there are approximately 65,000 DACA recipients who graduate high school each year. Of those 65,000 students, only 5-10% will attend college. Only 1-2% of those students will graduate with a college degree.

The panel discussion resumed after the conclusion of the documentary, this time with audience questions.  A BC senior asked Estrada and Aguilar what students could do to help DACA and undocumented students and to help make an impact.

“The one thing that I would recommend is actually getting into a conversation and building a relationship with someone who is a migrant themselves,” Estrada said. 

Aguilar took Estrada’s advice and went the opposite direction, saying, “Use your whiteness to talk to white people. Vote. Mobilize.”

The final question was a student asking both Estrada and Aguilar to summarize and contextualize the methods the students in the film used, such as organizing or civil disobedience with their own work and research.

“One of the things I can highlight out of the film is this whole notion of storytelling and the power of storytelling,” Estrada said. 

Aguilar added, “Intersectionality, love, humor, mixed-status families–all interact to go beyond place and take us into space.”

Currently, DACA recipients can apply to renew their standing, but no new applications are being accepted. President Donald Trump attempted to terminate the program in 2017. This year, the Supreme Court of the United States will hear oral arguments in a case that challenges the government’s decision to end the program. The court’s decision will decide the fate of DACA. 

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