Support for DACA and undocumented students — A Message from the President

Sept. 5, 2017

Dear UNT community,

Today, the Trump administration announced it would begin to roll back the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. This action is a blow to the aspirations of hundreds of thousands of “Dreamers,” including some of our students and alumni. The action threatens to derail the future of some of our nation’s most determined young adults and brightest minds.

While we learn more about how the administration intends to enact the changes, our university’s immediate concern is for how the rollback could negatively impact the wellbeing of our most vulnerable students — those who are DACA-certified or undocumented. I want to make clear that I unequivocally support DACA, undocumented and other students who are overcoming significant barriers to educational attainment. These students aspire to a better life and are doing what our society asks of them — they work hard, study hard and play by the rules. They want to use their talents and gifts to give back to their communities and our nation. We need to encourage them to stay focused, hopeful and invested in their education.

Like other university presidents nationwide, I call on Congress to swiftly pass bipartisan legislation that provides a permanent solution for these young people — a defined pathway that allows Dreamers to continue to live, work, study and achieve citizenship in the only nation many of them have ever known as home. In my role as UNT’s president, I will be visiting with our state-elected officials in hopes of maintaining eligibility for state financial aid and in-state tuition for our DACA and undocumented students.

Often, I’ve spoken of our warm, caring and inclusive community and our respectful treatment of one another, regardless of national origin or immigration status. In every dimension of university life, we are enriched by the contributions of our students, faculty and staff. Even during these uncertain and somewhat turbulent times, our shared values of equity, diversity, inclusion and non-discrimination make us stronger. It’s the UNT way. We must do everything possible to ensure that our students have access to the services and support necessary for them to thrive at UNT and graduate from their chosen degree programs.

I want to reiterate a few of our university’s commitments, policies and procedures. UNT is strongly committed to the privacy of student records, including immigration status for all students, consistent with state and federal laws. Student records are otherwise not disseminated without student consent or a judicial order. In the performance of their duties, members of the UNT Police Department don’t initiate law enforcement activities based solely on immigration status.

Students seeking assistance can find help from the following UNT areas:

  • Students have access to free counseling through UNT’s Counseling and Testing Services. Call 940-565-2741, stop by Chestnut Hall, suite 311, or learn more online.
  • Students can receive free legal advice through UNT’s student legal services office. Call 940-565-2614, email studentlegal@unt.edu, stop by University Union, suite 411, or learn more online.
  • UNT’s Care Team is available to assist students who are struggling and may be in distress. Call 940-565-4373 to refer yourself or someone else to the Care Team.
  • UNT’s Multicultural Center provides an environment where all students can thrive. Call 940-565-3424, email multicultural@unt.edu, stop by the University Union, suite 335 or learn more online
  • UNT’s Dean of Students is available for all students. Call 940-565-2648 or 940-565-2039 or stop by the University Union, suite 409.

Issues that impact students who are first-generation college students hit close to home for me and some other university administrators. Like most DACA and undocumented students enrolled at UNT, we were among the first in our families to pursue a better quality of life through higher education. We know first-hand how foundational and empowering a college education is to personal and professional success, and we believe our students deserve the same opportunities. Our nation will be stronger for it. 

In the days ahead as more information becomes available, we will share it. Please join me now in ensuring UNT continues to be a welcoming, supportive and caring community.

UNT Proud,
Neal Smatresk
President