Growing up, undocumented Edgewood College student Lupe Salmeron remembers how her family would cover up the living room window of their apartment with a blanket to stop deportation officers from Immigration and Customs Enforcement from looking inside their apartment during enforcement surges.
Their actions were based on a rumor that agents would go around looking into residences and arresting any undocumented individuals they could find.
“Now that I think about it, [the rumor] didn’t make any kind of sense,” Salmeron said. “But in the [undocumented] community, you just listen to everything you hear, because you don’t know what to believe.”
During the month of September, Wisconsin saw another enforcement surge. From Sept. 22 through Sept. 24, deportation officers from ICE arrested 83 individuals in a four-day immigration enforcement surge across Wisconsin, including 20 individuals from Dane County, according to an ICE press release.
More than half of those arrested had criminal histories, which included convictions for sexual assault, child abuse, domestic violence, driving under the influence, larceny, receiving stolen property, identity theft, obstructing police and weapon offenses. But 16 of those arrested had no criminal history and 21 of those arrested had illegally re-entered the U.S. following a prior deportation.
Ricardo Wong, Chicago field office director for ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations, defended the enforcement surge in the press release.
“This operation targeted criminal aliens, public safety threats and individuals who have violated our nation’s immigration laws,” Wong said. “Operations like this reflect the vital work our officers do every day to protect our communities, uphold public safety and protect the integrity of our immigration laws.”
Nicole Alberico, a public affairs officer for ICE’s Chicago field office, said ICE avoids conducting operations on college campuses because it considers them to be “sensitive locations.” Other sensitive locations include places of worship and hospitals.
In addition, University of Wisconsin policy directs against cooperating with ICE’s enforcement operations, unless required to do so under the law. The UW Police Department will not participate in immigration enforcement operations, and the university will not provide ICE with information on students, faculty or staff, according to Darcy Wittberger, director of communications at UW’s Division of Student Life.
Should ICE wish to contact individual students about immigration enforcement issues, they must use appropriate legal processes. In most cases, ICE must obtain a warrant before entering a private, on-campus residence.
Despite currently having protection from deportation under President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program, Salmeron said that the raids made her feel worried for other people she knew. Almost two decades ago, her parents settled in Madison because it was seen as “a very safe city.”
“You think, ‘Oh, we’re not by the border, it’s not like Arizona,’” Salmeron said. “So, for immigration raids to happen literally overnight with no warning — it’s scary.”
Created in 2012 through an executive action by Obama, DACA allows certain undocumented individuals who arrived in the U.S. before the age of 16 to receive a work permit, social security number, drivers’ license and a renewable two-year protection against deportation. Program participants must pass a background check and have graduated high school or be enrolled in an academic institution, among other requirements.
In January 2017, a California district court order stalled President Donald Trump’s attempts to scale back and terminate DACA. Until further notice, the program will continue accepting applications for renewals, although it is not currently accepting first-time applications, according to the National Immigration Law Center, an immigrant advocacy group
Wittberger encourages DACA students seeking resources and support to reach out to the Office of the Dean of Students. Students may also find resources through the Multicultural Student Center.
“The Division of Student Life wants all DACA students to know they are not alone,” Wittberger said. “There are resources and support.”
Currently, it is unclear how many DACA students attend UW. According to Wittberger, the university does not track the number of DACA students as a way of protecting students’ identities and information in the event they are targeted by immigration officials.
It is also unclear how DACA students pay tuition at UW. DACA students do not qualify for in-state tuition and are not eligible for federal financial aid or federal student loans. According to Wittberger, most DACA students pay for college using personal funds, scholarships, grants and private loans.
Salmeron said she wanted to attend UW, but found it to be prohibitively expensive.
“I was told to just keep my mind open,” Salmeron said. “I knew I wouldn’t be able to go to a lot of schools.”
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Salmeron spent her early years in Mexico City. She was born there when her parents were 17 and 18 years old. Realizing it would be difficult to raise a child in Mexico, they made the decision to leave when Salmeron was two. Later, in the U.S., they had another child, her brother.
When she was six years old, Salmeron joined her parents in Madison. Some of her earliest memories are of getting to know her family again. While she barely remembers Mexico City, she said she has strong memories of the culture shock of moving to the U.S. and learning to speak English.
For the most part, Salmeron said she grew up like any other American adolescent, doing the same things as her peers and sharing their worries about high school, test scores and friends. She applied for and received protection under DACA when she was 15 years old, which allowed her to get a drivers’ license, social security number and work permit.
“I’m just like everyone else, but I always have my [undocumented status] in the back of my mind,” Salmeron said. “Especially when it came to applying to college and being able to afford college, that’s when that part of my identity took over.”
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During Salmeron’s senior year of high school, teachers introduced her to undocumented college students who would give her advice on how to approach the college application process.
At the end of the application process, Salmeron chose to attend Edgewood College because they offered her the most aid. Through various scholarships and her job, she has been able to pay for college without taking out private loans.
Salmeron said she feels that the current political climate and Trump’s efforts to eliminate DACA have fostered a lot of uncertainty for her and other DACA students.
“Before the election, people were coming out about being undocumented,” Salmeron said. “With Trump, we’ve stepped a little bit back, with people being more hesitant about sharing their stories.”