Dominguez-Salinas was born in Mexico, came to the United States with her family in 2001, and now lives in Wallingford.
The education major, who graduated in December 2017, is a recipient of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allows those who arrived in the United States as children to apply for deferred action against deportation. She’s one of about 50 to 60 students at Southern who are undocumented, according to estimates from Esteban Garcia, a member of the Undocumented Students Support Team on campus.
According to a Pew Research Study, nearly 790,000 young unauthorized immigrants in the United State received work permits and protection of deportation as of September 2017, almost six years after the program’s inception.
DACA recipients have a short time before their status in the United States becomes that of an undocumented immigrant with no legal protection against deportation, no permit to work and none of the benefits that U.S. citizens receive.
One of those benefits is a college education from universities like Southern. This status had to be renewed every two years. Now, DACA has ended and the last date to reapply passed on Oct. 5, 2017.
Dominguez-Salinas is involved in New Haven’s CT Students for a Dream, and says despite New Haven being a sanctuary city there is not much organizing or community in the area. Dominguez-Salinas says the start of building a community in New Haven is reaching out to Yale and Gateway and to high schools through the College Access Program, which is the branch of C4D that works to ensure education for undocumented students regardless of their status.
The way Southern handles accommodating undocumented students can be done better, Dominguez-Salinas says.
“You don’t know what’s available to you,” she says. “Since you know that most things are unavailable, you just kind of assume.”
The university has created the Undocumented Students Support Team, and publishes a list of resources online at SouthernCT.edu.
In September, President Joe Bertolino sent a letter to the campus community outlining the resources, and offering support to DACA students.
Dominguez-Salinas explains that one of the biggest hoops to jump through for education are the financial difficulties. Undocumented immigrants are unable to apply for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
According to Garcia, when these students pay to attend Southern a portion of the money goes to funds for scholarships that they are not eligible for due to their citizenship status.
And, without proof of citizenship, they previously had to pay out-of-state tuition. The State Legislature started allowing undocumented students living in Connecticut to pay in-state tuition in 2015 if they meet certain requirements.
Southern’s out-of-state tuition costs for full-time undergraduate students are more than twice that of in-state tuition, according to the Student Accounts Office’s full-time rate schedule.
Out-of-state tuition was around $11,610 per semester in 2017, compared to the roughly $5,270 that in-state students would pay.
Another DACA recipient, Dayana Lituma-Solis, a freshman, communication disorders major, says that with no FAFSA, her only options were some select scholarships and whatever could be done out of pocket. Her family brought her to America from Ecuador when she was 2 years old.
Lituma-Solis wants to be a speech pathologist for bilingual students, but will be unable to legally work once her DACA expires in May 2019. Dominguez-Salinas and Lituma-Solis have worked together in the past hosting information and training sessions at Southern and across the state.
In November 2017, Dominguez-Salinas and Lituma-Solis held a training session in Engleman Hall with a group of students and Student Government Association, who had replaced their regularly scheduled meeting with this training session.
Dominguez-Salinas says that this session had a very good turn out and that it was the start to a community around the issue at Southern. Dominguez-Salinas says that often time, people will want to have a rally before the community is ready.
“And that’s great,” she says, “but, we don’t really have a community that would show up to (New Haven.)” Dominguez-Salinas denounces some common myths about undocumented immigrants. One such myth is that undocumented immigrants do not pay taxes. Dominguez-Salinas naturally pays sales tax on everything she buys that requires it, but also pays income tax as she is legally employed due to her current status as a DACA recipient, which expires February 2019. Many people ask why undocumented immigrants do not, “just apply for citizenship.”
Dominguez-Salinas assures that it is not that simple when many undocumented immigrants have no existing path to citizenship. This is where C4D comes in. Their mission is to get the federal government to pass a “Clean” Dream Act.
The Dream Act would provide a path to citizenship for DACA recipients and other undocumented immigrants who meet certain requirements. The White House and select members of Congress say they will only agree to this if compromises are made such as funding a wall on the United States-Mexican border and hiring 10,000 Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.
A “Clean” Dream Act would be one where such compromises are not included and therefore not harm non-DACA recipient undocumented immigrants.
“Even now, I don’t have a pathway to citizenship,” Dominguez-Salinas says. “I wish I’d just be able to apply.”
She notes it is “not realistic.” According to Dominguez-Salinas, many believe undocumented immigrants take advantage of government services.
“People don’t like to think that people are taking things away from them,” she says. But due to her undocumented status, she is ineligible welfare or public health insurance and that private health insurance is, “unrealistically unaffordable.”
Undocumented students often live in fear from ICE and authority.
Lituma-Solis says, “That’s a big part of our existence, is just fear.”
Lituma-Solis says that this fear started from a young age. She recognizes the difference of this fear and that of African Americans, who may fear police brutality.
She says that she had always known: “This country’s not for us. It’s against us.” The American Dream “isn’t true,” she says.
Dominguez-Salinas explains that she feels fearful or paranoid when watching interviews of herself.
“It’s out there for everyone to see,” she says. “I don’t watch interviews of myself, I don’t read articles.” Dominguez-Salinas’ last semester at Southern was Fall 2017.
She now laments that pursuing a career in education may give her “false hope.”
As the situation regarding immigration continues, financial reasons and fear of even more false hope means she might not even apply for her teaching certification she says.
“Our future’s uncertain,” says Lituma-Solis. “We don’t know what’s going to happen because right now our future is in the hands of a man who, let’s be honest, doesn’t really seem to care about what’s gonna happen to us.”
Those looking for support can contact Garcia or any other any other member of the Undocumented Student Support team. Dominguez-Salinas and Lituma-Solis will continue to work with C4D for the foreseeable future, building the community and training students, SCSU staff and others around the New Haven area.
Lituma-Solis says her goals regarding DACA, the Clean Dream Act and immigration are, “To raise awareness really, and to educate.”
“In terms of knowledge, that’s something that can always be improved. No matter who you are,” Lituma-Solis says.
By Jeff Lamson