New web resources help undocumented students decode legal procedures

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With the click of a button, undocumented students at UT can now access vital academic, enrollment and graduation information thanks to a new website unveiled by the UT International Office.

The Longhorn Dreamers Project was created to strengthen support services on campus for undocumented students at UT in collaboration with the University Leadership Initiative, a student organization that advocates for undocumented students to achieve legal status.

University Leadership Initiative president Juana Guzmán said the new website will be a welcome change from the past when students struggled to find a central place for information.

“We didn’t have anywhere to turn to before this,” Guzmán said. “Now we have this website that has resources for us.”

Located within the UT International Office’s website, Longhorn Dreamers Project provides information on everything from financial aid and advising to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, a new federal policy that allows certain undocumented residents to apply for temporary deferred deportation status and gain employment authorization. There are about 300 undocumented students currently enrolled at UT, according to the International Office.

Teri Albrecht, International Student and Scholar Services director, said the International Office identified a growing need among undocumented students to create a central place to access resources. She said that student input during the development of the website was crucial.

“We wanted to know directly from them what was the most beneficial information to provide on the website,” Albrecht said. “We went through focus groups with students to find out what they needed.”

Albrecht said she envisions the new website as being an asset not only to students but also to faculty and staff who seek to empower undocumented students.

“In the last 10 years, I’ve seen a lot of people across campus, faculty and staff, struggle to help students and didn’t know where to go necessarily,” Albrecht said. “Hopefully we’re helping faculty and staff who want to help students feel more empowered.”

University Leadership Initiative secretary Diana Morales said the website’s value lies in the fact that it was made for undocumented students by undocumented students.

“Most of the information that the website has comes from our own personal experiences,” Morales said.

Before the creation of the website, Morales said, it was often difficult for undocumented students to find a place to obtain information because their status didn’t fall into any existing administrative department.

“Here at UT, we don’t really have a specific category for us,” Morales said. “We don’t consider ourselves international students, and that can cause a lot of confusion.”

The website also offers information to undocumented high school students as well as high school counselors.