Resources for Undocumented College Students

Working at University Career Services the past three years has offered me the opportunity to work with students who immigrated to the United States with their parents at a young age.  Often they ask questions about how to represent their work history on a resume and what are some of the entities that would sponsor them in obtaining a HB-1 Visa so they can continue to build skills and move along their career paths.  This motivated me to attend a professional training at Texas State University for staff and faculty on the issues faced by this population and the resources available to them (both on campus and off).

I do not ask students whether they are documented or not, but allow them to share such if they are comfortable.  As a university entity I am bound by rules and legislation to keep that information confidential and I would not want to violate this and the student’s trust.

Conversations about how to help college students who are undocumented began long ago.  We as a nation first began talking about The Dream Act in 2001.  The DREAM Act stands for Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors.  These are children who immigrated to the United States with their parents and are currently attending college.  We continue to talk about The DREAM Act, and as of today it has yet to pass legislation.  This act would allow for a six year conditional residency status for undocumented individuals who met specific criteria, including receipt of a high school diploma or GED and must be between 12 and 35 years old at the time of application.  Currently ten states have passed laws allowing undocumented students to qualify for in-state tuition and Texas is one of them.  None of these states have experienced an influx of enrollment in higher education.  The DREAM Act is not amnesty.

This act would allow students to work legally in the United States, attend school and/or join the military.  These students would have the opportunity to not be forced into work as domestic workers, as day laborers or sweatshop factory workers.

If these students waited for documents like “everyone else” they would be waiting a long time and it could result in their career paths being put on hold.  The average wait time for a Green Card for a skilled worker is over 5 years.  For those who are siblings of US Citizens, the wait is 11-12 years.  I cannot imaging putting my career on hold for this long, can you?  The fee for hiring a skilled foreign-born professional is more than $3,000 for each individual.  When an entity agrees to sponsor a visa of this nature they are making an investment.  They must first prove a non-US Citizen is able to fill this position.

There is a movie that came out in 2009 that I would like to see, Papers.  http://www.papersthemovie.com/about_papers/index.html

As a result of today’s training I have more understanding of the challenges the students face and have some valuable resources to share with them.

Healthy Marriage Workshop

Today I assisted with a workshop on “Keeping Marriages Healthy”.

The workshop is part of the organization Love Gives First

http://www.lovegivesfirst.com/

The workshop is free for participants who sign up on-line.  If the couple is planning for marriage the workshop gives them the 8 hours required for a $60 discount on their marriage license, which means in some areas the license is free.

“Keeping Marriages Healthy” helps individuals identify their needs and the needs of their partner and then communicate these with each other.  We also spend some time talking about comforting each other in our hurts.  This is valuable information for new couples and for those who have been together for a long time.

The time is spent in short presentations, individual and couple reflection and some group discussion as the individuals are comfortable.  It is valuable information in a format that is comfortable for couples.

Music and it’s impact on our culture and economics

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the Texas State University Center for Sociology Inquiry symposium Hill Country Music Scenes. http://www.soci.txstate.edu/csi/  There were two presenters and several members of a panel.  The first speaker, Dr Bryce Merrill, presented on the impact music has on our economics.  Although I did not study Economics in school I found this very enlightening.  He spoke about not only musicians, but publishers, recorders, and the other crew members and how they bring tourism, travel, and support the economy when people buy merchandise (CD’s, T-shirts, etc).

The Second presentation, by Dr. David Grazian, was on the impact of music on culture.  He spoke specifically of urban areas where buildings are repurposed for music and gave a specific example of a church.

Living in the Austin Area for the past 13 years I have seen how the community is impacted by musicians.  I see a community that is very creative, not only in writing and playing music, but stretching dollars.  We spoke about how unfortunately many who enjoy music in this community do not tip the musicians, but simply enjoy a “free” show.  How unfortunate! Is there any other profession that is asked to share their skills for free?  There are also creative people who design album covers and take photos of the musicians for publication.  Then there’s always a critic, who writes about the experience.

In 1999 SIMS Foundation was created in Austin.  It is a local non-profit that provides mental health services for local musicians.  I have always been fascinated with this agency.  They provide personal (individual) counseling, family, substance abuse and also band therapy in the past.  So often a band operates and interacts like a family.  The foundation was created after at least two musicians experienced a mental health crisis. Earlier this week the national news covered a story about a musician who completed suicide.  In light of the symposium and my experience with SIMS Foundation I wondered if this musician had reached out for help recently.  I hope to have the opportunity to work with some local musicians in the future.