Jose Soto, vice president, Southeast Community College, Lincoln, Neb. 092117

Soto

Contributed photo

The plight of students sometimes called "Dreamers" is a hot topic on college campuses across the country, according to a diversity expert who spoke Thursday at Western Illinois University-Quad-Cities, Moline.

Jose Soto, an administrator at Southeast Community College, Lincoln, Nebraska, spoke to about 65 students and others. 

Although Soto's talk was on diversity, in a separate interview, he talked about DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, started in 2012 by former President Barack Obama. Participants in it sometimes are called "dreamers."

The DACA program protected people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children or came with families who overstayed visas.

In early September, President Donald Trump moved to rescind the program, and now, participants have been told it will end in six months, and they face possible deportation. The delay is meant to give Congress time to pass legislation to help them, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said earlier this month.

Soto is Southeast Community College's vice president for access, equity and diversity, and he's been in the job for 26 years. 

He has several DACA students on campus and also at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.

"First, we throw them a bit of a lifeline, telling them to work hard and be part of the community and don't worry about being deported, and then we pull the rug out from under them," he said of Trump's declaration.

"I think that's unfair; the young people are not getting the support they deserve for doing the right thing."

When he speaks to students, Soto said, there is fear and uncertainty about the future. These DACA students have shared a great deal of personal information with authorities, and Soto said they are worried that information will be used against them.

The president's actions on DACA and immigration travel bans are creating an unfriendly climate, Soto said.

"We say we'll ban them, we'll put up a wall, we'll deport them," he said. "The undercurrent is that the presence of immigrants is not wanted or not legitimate."

Soto's visit was sponsored by the Quad-Cities Cultural Alliance and is part of Hispanic Heritage Month.

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