The university hired Arelis Palacios as a part-time coordinator for students without documentation on Nov. 20, after students circulated a petition calling on the university to create a position to advise undocumented students following the presidential election.
Palacios currently works full-time as senior associate director of programming and advising at the Office of Global Education (OGE) and will be conducting her new responsibilities in addition to her position there. “Undocumented students face unique challenges and have had to navigate varying state laws and the absence of federal comprehensive immigration reform to gain access to higher education,” Palacios wrote in an email to the Voice.
Her responsibilities will include providing check-ins with undocumented students and students from mixed-status families, coordinating communication between students and administrators, advocating for increased counseling for undocumented students, and connecting students to legal aid. She will also serve as the co-chair for the Undocumented Student Task Force.
The petition demanded that the university establish a full-time position. “In the future, we hope the University seeks to make the Undocumented Student Coordinator a full-time position, and we will continue to advocate for it,” wrote an undocumented student in UndocuHoyas who was granted anonymity because of concerns about the consequences of the student’s immigration status.
UndocuHoyas worked with the GUSA Executive, the GUSA Undocumented Student Inclusion Policy Team, Hoyas for Immigrant Rights, the Undocumented Student Task Force, and Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson to create the coordinator position. “It is important that we focus on supporting our undocumented students and assuring that Georgetown is a welcoming campus,” wrote Olson in an email to the Voice. “I am confident Arelis Palacios will be a tremendous asset in this work.”
On Nov. 29, President DeGioia announced in an email that he had signed “Statement in Support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program and our Undocumented Immigrant Students” along with other university heads.
Palacios has advised undocumented students in her previous position at the University of Texas Austin, providing guidance to students on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and study abroad options. She also worked closely with University Leadership Initiative, a University of Texas student group. ”We also partnered with U.C. Berkeley’s Undocumented Student Program and United We Dream to help craft institutional policies that became nationally recognized as the standard for advising and helping students along the international education process,” she wrote.
The undocumented student said that a student coordinator would provide necessary centralized support and guidance in the uncertainty following the election. Former Assistant Director for Multicultural Affairs Cynthia Salazar previously served as a liaison for students without documentation until December 2015.
The student hoped the Georgetown community would continue to unite behind undocumented students in the future. “There’s a sentiment out there that undocumented students are taking away from resources that would otherwise go to other students,” the student wrote in an email to the Voice. “This pains us and is alienating. We are all Hoyas.”