Showing top-level commitment

Community college leaders are strong advocates for programs supporting immigrants and refugees. They bring together the resources that allow programs to succeed; facilitate participation at all levels of the college organization, from faculty to counselors to administrators, and across credit and noncredit departments; and engage with a variety of community stakeholders.

Community colleges demonstrate a commitment to serving immigrants and refugees, by embedding diversity plans into college processes, emphasizing the economic and social justice imperatives, through both their words and actions.

This article is an excerpt from the book “Working Toward an Equitable and Prosperous Future for All: How Community Colleges and Immigrants Are Changing America” edited by Jill Casner-Lotto with Teresita B. Wisell (Rowan & Littlefield/American Association of Community Colleges). The book is paired with “Working Together: How Community Colleges and Their Partners Help Immigrants Success,” from the same publishers and editors.

The following are some strategies to explore:

  • Incorporate immigrant and refugee education initiatives into the college’s strategic plan, and use data to monitor progress in these programs and services. Ensure that initiatives align with state-level high school and college completion goals and address current and projected skills shortages.
  • Strengthen targeted immigrant and refugee education initiatives by leveraging academic and career support resources as part of mainstream college completion, guided pathway, career pathway and workforce development strategies serving a range of underrepresented, nontraditional students.
  • Establish an immigrant and refugee resource center or a centralized point of contact to increase students’ access to programs and services, and facilitate the necessary communications and connections with other college services, including admissions, financial aid, student support and workforce development.
  • Elevate the college’s message of support for immigrant and refugee students — including Dreamers, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) recipients and all undocumented students — by reaffirming the college’s commitment to diversity, inclusiveness and equity as core values. Establish campus-wide, cross-departmental advisory teams comprising administrators, faculty, students and staff to coordinate outreach and advocacy; provide training to front-line staff and faculty; and mobilize vital legal, financial, mental health and other community resources.
  • Advocate at the federal level for passage of a bipartisan DREAM Act providing a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, DACA recipients, TPS recipients and other undocumented students if they meet certain requirements, and at the state level for extending access to in-state tuition, financial aid, drivers’ licenses and professional licensure to undocumented residents.
  • Advocate for passage of the federal bipartisan JOBS Act that would extend Pell grants to working students enrolled in quality short-term training programs leading to industry-recognized credentials in high-demand fields.

About the Author

Jill Casner-Lotto
is director of the Community College Consortium for Immigrant Education, which is located at Westchester Community College in New York.