On Feb. 19, Dean of Students Sheilah Horton sent out an announcement via email regarding updates on the programming orchestrated by Wellesley’s Immigration Working Group as well as changes in the group’s leadership.
Working groups, such as the immigration working group, are committees of appointed individuals which includes students, faculty, administration, and trustees. They are tasked with studying a specific campus issue and making recommendations for actions to ameliorate the problem. Wellesley has several working groups on issues from energy conservation to immigration.
Wellesley’s Immigration Working Group was formed in February 2017 by Paula Johnson and “it is charged with helping the College understand and support the needs of undocumented members of the community, or any other community members who may be feeling vulnerable as a result of the current political climate and the ongoing changes to regulations related to immigration and refugees’ status” said Dean Horton via email.
Since being elected in 2016, President Trump has, in no uncertain terms, expressed his desire to limit immigration from certain countries as well as punish and ultimately deport undocumented people. Immediately following his inauguration in January 2017, Trump has proposed and enacted policies targeting undocumented immigrants. Among those under threat under this administration are Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients. The majority of undocumented students on Wellesley College’s campus, as well as campuses across the country, are DACA recipients: people who, though undocumented, arrived in the United States before the age of 16.
“Over the past few years, we have seen a number of changes in federal policy regarding immigration and refugee status that are deeply concerning and may have far-reaching impacts on our students, faculty, and staff,” said Horton. At the end of fall semester 2016, President Johnson made the controversial decision to not designate Wellesley College as a sanctuary campus. However, since then, this Working Group has been one of the main initiatives taken by President Johnson to show the college’s support for undocumented Wellesley community members. “Many in our community may still feel vulnerable and may face uncertainty. We have an ongoing, broader commitment to ensure the utmost safety to all of our community members — this is central to our pursuit of inclusive excellence — and the efforts by the immigration working group to support those impacted by policies are crucial,” said Horton.
In the fall semester 2018, the Immigration Working Group appointed Ines Maturana Sendoya, the associate dean of students for inclusion and engagement, as their new chair. Sendoya joined Wellesley College as associate dean of Intercultural Engagement, Inclusion, and Equity in Fall 2018. She oversees the Intercultural Education unit and the Slater International Center. Sendoya has over two decades of professional experience specializing in “designing, coordinating, and assessing student engagement programs.” Additionally as an immigrant from Colombia Sendoya — in an interview conducted this past fall — stated “I can also draw on my experiences and perspective as an Afro-Colombian woman, which will also inform my leadership style.”
The working group serves to help the College understand and support the needs of undocumented members of the community, or any other community members who may be feeling vulnerable as a result of the ongoing changes to regulations related to immigration and refugees’ status.” said Sendoya. In the ever-changing landscape of immigration policies under Trump’s administration, Sendoya maintains that the group’s core goals remain the same but they have expanded to “monitor not only policies that affect undocumented members of the community but also international students and scholars because the rules have also been changing for them.”
The Working Group closely monitors policy changes and maintains a website with information regarding immigration policies that might affect members of the community. Additionally, the Working Group’s website provides a myriad of both Wellesley-specific and general resources regarding the ever-changing and complex immigration policies.” Earlier this February, the group also hosted a legal clinic that was co-sponsored by Human Resources so that faculty and staff could discuss their individual cases with local lawyers.
Since its inception, the Working Group has hosted several events and programs. “The group organizes educational forums for the community so that individuals can be better informed of the changes in policies and ways in which they can be involved.” said Sendoya. On February 27, the Working Group will have hosted their second event of the semester, a panel entitled “The Changing Landscape of Immigration”.
“As a seasoned administrator who has worked on behalf of students of color from many different backgrounds, Dean Maturana-Sendoya is uniquely qualified to lead this initiative. She has academic credentials in immigration and international education”, said Horton.
For those in imminent risk due to their documentation status, Sendoya recommends that they reach out to her so that she can put them in contact with other resources. Additionally, for those who wish to get involved, Sendoya recommends attending events sponsored by the Work Group, additionally they can reach out to her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Immigration Working Group’s website.