Associate Director for Undocumented Student Services Arelis Palacios will leave her position Jan. 31 to pursue a doctoral degree at the University of Texas at Austin.
Palacios has worked with the Center for Multicultural Equity and Access since November 2016. After departing her position at Georgetown University, Palacios will work in K-12 educational reform efforts in Austin, Texas, while working toward a doctoral degree. The CMEA will post the job opening in the upcoming weeks and aims to fill the position by January, according to Palacios.
The position of associate director for undocumented student services is responsible for creating programs to help students without documentation achieve success, according to CMEA Director Charlene Brown-McKenzie.
“This role is responsible for development and implementation, programs and services to engage and support undocumented undergraduate and graduate students, in addition to identifying and collaborating with on- and off- campus resources and partners to help undocumented students find success and well-being,” Brown-McKenzie wrote in an email to The Hoya.
For students without documentation filling out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals application alone and struggling with safety concerns when the Trump administration announced plans to phase out DACA in 2017, Palacios played a crucial adviser role, according to Hoyas For Immigrant Rights President and student without documentation Arisaid Gonzalez Porras (COL ’21).
“Arelis has been there to help me fill out my DACA application since it was the first time I’d done it without my parents’ guidance,” Porras wrote in an email to The Hoya. “In the past two years, Arelis has been there in time of support like when the DACA program was rescinded.”
Due to the safety risks that people without documentation face in the current political climate and the uncertainty surrounding DACA, having an on-campus position dedicated to the interests of students without documentation is essential, according to Palacios.
“While there are elevated levels of risk and enforcement across our communities, it’s even more urgent for a position like this to exist in universities nationally to provide support and reassurance to undocumented youth in their professional goals and to forge paths of continued educational attainment,” Palacios wrote in an email to The Hoya.
During her time working at the CMEA, Palacios worked closely with colleagues in the Georgetown Scholars Program, the Center for Social Justice, Research, Teaching and Service, the Undocumented Student Advisory Team and the Office of the President, among other administrative offices at Georgetown. The emphasis that Georgetown places on providing services to students without documentation is rarely found in institutions nationwide, according to Palacios.
“I have worked at institutions that did not make the same commitment to their undocumented students, and it was very hard to have felt so helpless in those moments, so it’s imperative for folx to understand that these efforts require coordinated responses on behalf of many community members,” Palacios wrote.
In addition to having a position dedicated to students without documentation, Georgetown has representatives from 17 different offices who work to support students without documentation, according to the university’s undocumented student resources page. Georgetown recently signed an amicus brief expressing support for DACA, joining 18 other colleges and universities.
The position provides support for students without documentation at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Although the role does help a wide range of Georgetown students, there continues to be a lack of support for students without documentation at other universities, Porras wrote.
“This role does a lot of behind the scenes work not just on the undergraduate level but also for graduate, law, and medical students,” Porras wrote. “The fact that this position is not in place for all universities says a lot about the work that needs to be done to continue to create resources for students to succeed.”
Interacting with the community of students without documentation and helping them achieve their professional and academic goals has been a fulfilling part of the job, Palacios said.
“I have really enjoyed getting to know our undocumented student community and being in a position to provide key support services to our students at various critical moments,” Palacios wrote. “I’m grateful to have witnessed even a small part of their journeys at Georgetown.”