Katie M. Derzon,the College’s recently-appointed undocumented student fellow, has partnered with other College administrators to present "a series of concrete recommendations" for supporting undocumented students by the end of the semester.
Derzon, a sociology graduate student and tutor in Leverett House, assumed her position earlier this month. She said she meets with undocumented students “one-on-one to work to answer questions as they occur.”
“I connect them to resources—legal, social, psychological—that exist on-campus and off-campus on occasion to make sure they are equipped to deal with some of the challenges they are facing,” Derzon said.
Derzon holds weekly office hours, and the working group consists of administrators from other parts of the College—such as the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid—to support both current and prospective undocumented students. The group meets monthly, she said.
Within the working group, Derzon said she researches other schools’ approaches to support undocumented students who are protected by Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an executive order issued by former President Barack Obama in 2012.
Specifically, Derzon said “Dream Centers,” organizations at schools in the University of California system that serve as resource centers for undocumented students, peaked her interest for potential changes to implement at Harvard.
So far, Derzon said she sees connecting students to legal resources as her first priority. She pointed to Jason M. Corral, a staff attorney at the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program, as one of those resources.
“Making sure that students have somebody who can answer the legal questions they face vis-a-vis employment or travel, continuing to have those supports for me is the most vital,” she said.
However, Derzon said she hopes to continue to “talk to students over the course of the semester and hear from them where they feel like the gaps exist.”
She added: “I don’t want to assume that I know what their explicit needs are.”
Enrique Ramirez ’17, an undocumented student at the College and member of Act on a Dream, called Derzon’s work to support undocumented students is “amazing” and “unprecedented.”
“It’s really a sign that the University is trying to help undocumented students with resources in all dimensions of life like mental health, financial resources, [and] study abroad resources,” Ramirez said.
Jin Park ’19, another undocumented student at the College, said that having Derzon as a fellow is a step in the right direction, but wants to see more “political advocacy” from Harvard administration.
“There are so many more things that Harvard can do because of its role as a leader in American and international education, but I guess the first step is really encouraging,” he said.
—Staff writer Alice S. Cheng can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @alicescheng.—Staff writer Kristine E. Guillaume can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @krisguillaume.