University Welcomes Mexican Consul
Mexican Head Consul Rodolfo Quilantán-Arenas of Little Rock, Arkansas, left, speaks to a room of members of the University of Central Oklahoma community, including UCO President Don Betz, on Friday, Feb. 23 in the Leroy Coffman Territorial Lounge of Old North. Quilantán-Arenas visited UCO to speak on DACA and undocumented students, as well as what the Mexican consulate can do for them. (Cara Johnson/The Vista)
As part of a partnership to increase support and available resources for Hispanic students, the University of Central Oklahoma hosted a reception last week for the Mexican Consulate from Little Rock, Arkansas.
Mexican Consul Rodolfo Quilantán-Arenas was welcomed at Old North on Friday in an event organized in part by UCO’s DACA and Undocumented Task Force. As the Mexican consulate in Little Rock already provides services to the Hispanic community in Oklahoma City, the university arranged the event to help solidify a partnership that would bene t both students and the community.
“UCO is a metropolitan university, and as such, we have reached out to our Hispanic community to provide access to higher education and serve our community’s needs,” said Liliana Rentería Mendoza, director of OKC Cultural Outreach Strategies at UCO. “This is why this event today, hosting the Mexican consul, marks a milestone in our journey.”
The consulate in Little Rock provides services for all of Arkansas, half of Oklahoma and half of Tennessee. These services include legal protections and assistance,
as well as providing resources and some support in situations involving immigration.
Issues of immigration, as well as detainment, are some of the most common cases the consulate takes on, according to Quilantán-Arenas.
While Mexico has approximately 12 million residents living in the United States, roughly half of them are undocumented.
Quilantán-Arenas admitted that immigration was a complicated legal situation, but said that universities such as UCO have been some of the most supportive institutions on the issue.
“In all of the communities, one of the most important supporters on this has been the universities, the supreme institution of education,” Quilantán-Arenas said. “And of course, it is a very complex issue because you have to balance the compassion with the knowledge that they are coming without papers.”
One of the most pressing issues that Quilantán-Arenas said the Consulate has been facing is questions related to the repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act under President Donald Trump.
The DACA program was enacted in 2012 by the Obama administration as a means to protect the more than 800,000 undocumented immigrants, who had been brought to the U.S. as children, from deportation.
The Trump administration ended the program in September, permitting DACA applicants to renew their applications by Oct. 5 before completely phasing the program out in March 2018.
While a federal judge issued a ruling last month that temporarily blocked the program’s phase out and required that the Trump administration resume accepting DACA applications, the question of how to replace DACA has left Congress deadlocked.
While Quilantán-Arenas said that the Consulate can only do so much in the event that DACA is successfully repealed, he did say that they were willing to provide whatever resources they had available.
“We can try to provide guidance and support, we can tell how Mexico has been prepared if DACA is not renewed,” Quilantán-Arenas said. “Fortunately, two American judges, one in California and one in New York, have stopped the suspension and I am feeling optimistic.”
With more than 7,000 DACA recipients in Oklahoma and a Hispanic population of approximately 10 percent at UCO, advocacy for undocumented students is a growing issue on campus.
Collaborations with partners such as the Mexican consulate are a step in the right direction for improving what resources the campus can provide students and the community, according to Mendoza.
“A few years ago, there were only a handful of us in this room who were helping undocumented students and resources on a case-by-case basis,” Mendoza said. “I am proud to say today, now, that we have a task force of over 20 faculty, staff and students working on coordinating events and trainings to educate our community to be allies.”
While optimistic on the possible outcome of the lawsuit for DACA, Quilantán-Arenas said that the current relationship between Mexico and the U.S. was strained to levels that the Mexican government had not seen since 1985.
“We are facing many great challenges, but the most important challenge we are facing in the 21st century is to learn to live with someone who is not like you and who is not like me,” Quilantán-Arenas said.