Talks of immigration part of Hispanic Heritage Month


It was a cool and rainy afternoon on Oct. 6, perfect weather for the soup being served at the UIS Diversity Center for the Soup and Conversation event.

Over 20 students and staff gathered there for food, free T-shirts, and friendly conversation about one of the most controversial issues in current American politics: immigration.

The main presenter was Anette Sikka, an associate professor in the UIS legal studies department and an immigration lawyer. The event largely revolved around the approaching deadline for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, a national program that provides some amnesty for undocumented immigrants who came to this country as children. President Trump announced last month that he’s ending the program, leading many undocumented immigrants uncertain of their future.

Sikka outlined several options for former DACA recipients, but overall recommended against relying on DACA in the future. She also responded to more specific legal questions regarding recent changes to immigration laws and how it would affect friends and family members of those in attendance.

Depending on one’s background, there are several steps undocumented immigrants could take to stay in the country after DACA expires. Some recommendations included applying for entrepreneur visas for those with the funds to afford it, U Visas for those who had witnessed a crime and were cooperating with the police, and domestic violence visas for those who had experienced domestic violence.

Sikka then turned her attention to the new DREAM Act being pushed forward by Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, which would provide conditional and then permanent residency to qualifying minors who came to this country illegally. Sikka expressed her doubts about its passage and declared that she and most other immigration lawyers preferred to focus on their own work until something more concrete emerges.

The event wrapped up with Sikka announcing that she’s heading a new task force to handle immigration related issues for UIS students, the first meeting of which will take place on Oct. 13 at noon at the Diversity Center in the Student Life Building.

Sikka hoped that event-goers could rethink the way they approached immigration reform.

“Anyone who currently has DACA status should be looking into ways to regularize their status, not waiting for the administration to review this or for the DREAM act to pass,” she said. “They should talk to a lawyer as soon as possible, and the Diversity Center and the Legal studies department are working on ways to support students through projects in the new university task force.”