Know your rights: DACA panel discussion


Megan Petzold/ Iowa State Daily

During the Know Your Rights Panel on March 6th, 2018, (from left to right) Sonia Reyes-Snyder of the Iowa Department of Human Rights, Katharine Johnson Suski of the Iowa State Office of Admissions, Michael Levine of Student Legal Services and senior Ricky Corona spoke to the audience about the realistic views that society has and the options people have. 

Mike Brown

Uncertainty surrounding DACA has left many confused and concerned as to what options they have and what they can and cannot do.

The panel set out to inform attendees of their rights as well as information regarding concerns surrounding DACA, resources in the state of Iowa as well as Iowa State such as legal and mental health services, and community support resources.

A handout was provided detailing the rights of immigrant students and actions they can take.

Liz Mendez-Shannon also emphasized the application deadline for the DACA student scholarship has been extended to Friday, March 9. Students can reach out to Ann Wessman in the Office of Student Financial Aid for more information regarding submission of scholarship applications.

The panel began with opening remarks from John and Deborah Ganoe and panel moderator, Jose Rosa, professor of marketing, about the current situation and uncertainty surrounding DACA as well as goals for the discussion.

“Knowledge is a wonderful thing because it helps us dispel fear and we need that,” Rosa said. “We need to dispel fear, get rid of paralysis and move forward.”

Sonia Reyes-Snyder, executive officer for the Iowa Office of Latino Affairs, emphasized everyone who is already a DACA recipient can and should still renew. While new DACA applications are not being taken, renewals may still be applied for.

Mendez-Shannon spoke about her goals for the panel discussion.

“In my year and a half at ISU I’ve realized that the way to share support is by building a community,” Mendez-Shannon said. “My hope in being here is to unite.”

Mendez-Shannon reiterated the sentiment that knowledge is power in this uncertain time for DACA students and those affected by the recent climate surrounding immigration.

Reyes-Snyder, described her work to do education and outreach with Latinx communities and groups who work with these communities.

Reyes-Snyder also provided a list of immigration services and resources in the state of Iowa.

Reyes-Snyder addressed concerns that she said she has heard from DACA recipients, such as not wanting to reveal one’s address, advising those with this fear to obtain a separate mailing address from their home address, as they can use their mailing address when renewing their DACA status.

Reyes-Snyder explained that while renewals of DACA are still being accepted indefinitely, TPS, or temporary protected status, will be ending Sept. 9, 2019.

Reyes-Snyder encouraged those present to seek out a nonprofit attorney, referring attendees to a list of groups who can offer consultation and support with either no cost or minimal costs.

Reyes-Snyder also referenced a provided list of immigration attorneys, but clarified that before using any attorneys featured in the list, one should do research on the attorneys listed and read reviews to find which attorney can best serve them.

Reyes-Snyder said one should not seek out a notary when going through these processes, as a notary often will not be fully qualified to assist with cases and issues involving immigration.

Reyes-Snyder told attendees that if their DACA status has expired they should renew their DACA status and then go renew their driver’s license. She said there is a 60 day grace period to protect DACA recipients while they retain their new driver’s license.

Reyes-Snyder also said it is illegal for a police officer to question an individual’s immigration status, and it is within the rights of any United States resident to refuse to answer this question.

Reyes-Snyder said if there is a circumstance where one is detained or a family member is detained, it is important to have a plan and to contact a lawyer as soon as possible.

Reyes-Snyder encouraged anyone in these situations to reach out to American Friends Service Committee, or AFSC, at either

Reyes-Snyder emphasized the importance of people knowing their rights surrounding immigration. Reyes also spoke about the importance of receiving mental health assistance in such a high stress time, advising those in attendance to build support systems to help deal with any stress or guilt.

Maria Alcivar-Zuniga, Ph.D. student in human development and family studies, also felt mental health services was an important context in regards to the uncertainty surrounding students’ immigration status.

“This takes a really deep toll on your mental health, stress, anxiety and depression, in addition to being a student of color or an immigrant student that is struggling with status situation and also academics,” Alcivar-Zungia said. “It’s important to always check yourself and try to reach out to resources that are available to you.”

Fellow panel member and Lang intern with theAFSC, Ricardo Corona, explained how the AFSC hotline works. Saying it can provide a list of immigration lawyers to detained persons and their loved ones, as well as other resources such as diapers.

Corona also detailed the questions that would be asked of a person who called if there is a detained individual involved, including name, date, country of birth, immediate and non-immediate resources that may be needed, and if a lawyer list is needed.

Corona also spoke about a controversial state bill, which has passed through the Iowa Senate but not the House of Representatives, SF 481. The bill would require local governments to cooperate with ICE, or Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Corona warned of dangers of this bill, saying it would blur the line of racial profiling in law enforcement and damage the relationships of local police and immigrant communities.

Panel member, attorney, and co-director of Iowa State Student Legal Services, Michael Levine, spoke about the importance of having a plan to protect oneself and loved ones, including legal guardianship, power of attorney and having a plan of what lawyer a person would reach out to in case of an emergency situation.

Levine spoke about the right to an attorney in cases of arrest and that if someone cannot afford an attorney, they may be provided a court appointed attorney.

Levine then expressed the importance of consulting an immigration lawyer as soon as possible, even if you have an appointed lawyer, as that lawyer may not be experienced in immigration law. He stressed the importance of not entering a guilty plea until first consulting an immigration lawyer, a mistake, he said, is made all too often.

Levine also said all university legal consultations, which are available to all Iowa State students are free and confidential.

A list of things to have a plan for if a family member was to be detained was outlined.

The list consisted of knowing a power of attorney, ensuring children have passports and having someone to obtain a last paycheck if the arrested individual is deported.

The list suggested having another individual who is able to access one’s bank account, a plan to sell one’s property and larger possessions such as cars if deported, and a specific system and plan for one’s children if they come home to an empty house and fear their parent may have been taken into custody were also discussed.

Director of the Iowa State Office of Admission and panel member, Katharine Johnson Suski, detailed the application process for those students who may be undocumented immigrants or DACA recipients.

Suski said all who apply to Iowa State do not need a visa and to apply as United States residents. She said no further questions regarding documentation are asked of applicants to Iowa State.

Suski then detailed problems an Iowa State student would encounter as a DACA recipient, including working on campus or applying for certain financial assistance or scholarships such as FAFSA. DACA students can, however, complete the FAFSA as a way to receive other forms of financial aid.

Suski did however say there are scholarships that can be found on the website that do not require students to have documentation. Suski also detailed student services including counseling and help with food insecurity.

Mendez-Shannon spoke about the 5k race, taking place on March 24 , to support DACA students.

After a Q&A with the panel, Mendez-Shannon made closing remarks, calling for strength and community.

“We are living in times that are hard, we are relentless, we are strong and we are powerful,” Mendez-Shannon said. “You are not alone and we are strong together.”