DREAM Action NIU hosts 8th annual Coming Out of the Shadows

Elisa Reamer, Reporter

DeKALB – DREAM Action NIU hosted its 8th annual Coming Out of the Shadows event Wednesday via Zoom where students shared personal stories about their time living in America as an undocumented citizen.

“We will continue the tradition of Coming Out of the Shadows because we know the power of our counter stories and how students, undocumented or not, leave with a sense of empowerment,” DREAM Action Treasurer Juan Tinoco Gomez said. “We have seen the power of uniting to share stories, and now that we’ve come together to support each other.”

Their stories were centered around the lack of opportunities and how difficult life is for undocumented people living in America.

Students shared what it was like growing up with different experiences than their peers, such as not being able to obtain a driver’s license or filing for FAFSA to help pay for college to receive a degree they won’t even be able to use.

Alberto Briones, DREAM Action Social Media runner, shared eight demands for change they want from NIU.

The first is to provide housing for undocumented students. Briones asks NIU to grant 125 scholarships for housing that will be available to undocumented, international first-year students and low-income students. Briones also asks for 125 meal plans for on and off-campus students.

DREAM Action also wishes for more funding for undocumented students. Briones said he wants NIU to properly fundraise for the Promise Fund and Emergency Assistance Fund. He requests a $125 donation to celebrate NIU’s 125th anniversary.

“Our third demand is more work opportunities for undocumented students,” Briones said. “We would like to ask NIU to create opportunities for students to gain work experience on campus while being paid a tuition waiver or scholarship for students without a work permit.”

DREAM Action’s fourth demand is there needs to be a liaison in the Admissions Office to support high school visits and NIU visits, Briones said.

DREAM Action’s fifth demand is to increase ally training for the staff, especially advisors and counselors. Undocumented students don’t always have the resources to graduate on time due to not being able to be full-time students, Briones said.

“Our sixth demand is support for HB 3438,” Briones said. “This bill will ask that public universities and community colleges have undocumented resource liaison on staff to help support undocumented and mixed-status students. Undocumented student liaisons will offer support services, including but not limited to, state, federal, and other financial aid assistance, academic counseling, peer support services, psychological counseling referral services and legal services.”

DREAM Action’s seventh demand is to work with DePaul University’s Staff Attorney, Office of General Counsel and the College of Law. Working with these different organizations will make it possible to host immigration clinics on NIU’s campus to provide undocumented students legal support from a professional in immigration law, Briones said.

DREAM Action’s eighth demand is to hire more counselors who are Black, Indigenous and People of Color.

“We realized that mental health counselors are needed on campus, but we demand more Black, Indigenous and People of Color counselors to help meet the needs of the diverse student population on campus,” Briones said. “We want counselors that can understand our language, culture and life experiences.”

DREAM Action continues to fight for the belief that education is a human right and not just a right for documented citizens.

Participants of the event were encouraged to post about the event on social media using #UndocumentedUnafraid #AlwaysUnapogetic #COS2021 #FourPoetsOneMic and #WeTooAreNIU

To support DREAM Action NIU, donations can be made through Venmo: DreamActionNIU, Cashapp: $DreamActionNIU or Paypal: dreamactionniu@gmail.com

Dreamer students can apply for a DACA Scholarship here.