Amid Daily Uncertainty, DACA Students at UC Berkeley Turn to On-Campus Counseling

In September, President Trump ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The Obama-era policy protects undocumented young people who were brought to the U.S. as children from deportation.

The University of California sued the Trump administration for unlawful termination of the program and the Northern District of California Federal Court ruled in their favor and required the Department of Homeland Security to accept DACA renewal applications.

As the termination of DACA is challenged in courts throughout the country, the fate of roughly 800,000 DACA recipients remains in limbo.

This causes such anxiety for the more than 400 students enrolled with DACA at UC Berkeley that the school expanded its mental health services.

*Salma, DACA Recipient, UC Berkeley
Ever since the Trump administration started there has been an increase in the need for mental health services for undocumented students, so they’ve been able to hire even more special counselors for that demographic.

As a student it’s affected my ability to concentrate on my work.

I had the privilege in the Obama administration to be able to come to Cal at a very competitive school, to just thoroughly focus on my schoolwork, and forget about the fact, for a brief moment, that I am undocumented, and I have these things hanging over me.

I’m finishing up my last year in applied math with computer science.

Pac-Man is trying to run away from all the ghosts using probability of where the ghosts will be next.

I want to start a company in embedded systems and artificial intelligence after I’m done.

With the current administration, it destabilizes my situation even further when I have to worry about graduating and not being able to work, worrying about my parents being deported.

Mentally, my family and I have been very affected by all of the rhetoric coming from the administration. In my nuclear family, with my parents and myself, I’m experiencing a lot more physical symptoms of that anxiety

Now we have available to us, multiple counselors for which we can go make appointments for, or we can go drop in, if there’s anything we need to talk about or have on our minds we can let that out with someone who understands that journey.

I have a counselor I always go to. It’s Meng So, He’s always been able to help me whenever I have a hiccup or felt really overwhelmed by the situation.

Meng So, Director of Undocumented Student Program
Instead of losing sleep over school our students are losing sleep over whether or not they will be deported, or whether or not their families will be here tomorrow or not.

I think the decision to end DACA it was heartbreaking for a lot of our students and families. It was taking a way the small taste of freedom, safety and opportunity that our students had.

Our students won’t feel safe unless their families are safe.

Salma, DACA Recipient, UC Berkeley
DACA to me means nothing, if my parents can’t stay here. I don’t want to be a part of this community without my family here. I think they also contribute as well.

I’m like my dad’s therapist, I help them out when I get mental health services as well. They have more limited resources than I do.

Meng So, Director of Undocumented Student Program
One word to describe our students and their families it would be resilient. Even in the face of deportation, they find love and laughter and togetherness.

*Last name withheld to protect the identity of Salma’s family.

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