NORMAL — Illinois State University is going to look into formalizing efforts to assist undocumented students or potential students who want to study at ISU.

Beth Hatt, co-chair of La CAUSA, the Committee to Assist Undocumented Student Achievement, said she and others met with ISU President Larry Dietz on Friday following the second annual Workshop to Develop Support for Undocumented Students, which took place Friday afternoon at the Marriott Hotel and Conference Center in Normal.

But the next step would be to make some of activities of La CAUSA a part of institutional practices, she said.

That's what Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago has done.

Two administrators from Northeastern Illinois University outlined the Undocumented Students Project the Chicago school during the afternoon workshop, attended by about 60 people.

Key elements of Northeastern's program include a resource guide helping undocumented students to know what their options are regarding such things as financial aid. It also offers and training for faculty and staff so they know how to respond if an undocumented student comes to them with questions.

Undocumented students are not eligible for government financial aid but, in Illinois, they can be eligible for in-state tuition if they meet certain criteria, such as attending an Illinois high school for at least three years.

Northeastern partnered with community organizations working on immigration issues to compile information and provide training.

Jan Murphy, ISU's interim vice president of academic affairs and provost, said students, faculty and staff deserve “a safe, supportive environment.”

“There are some things we can't do,” said Murphy, such as change federal laws. “What we can do is … make sure those who are directly impacted know we do care.”

Among steps ISU already has taken is creation of a web page on its website with links to information helpful to undocumented students or potential students, https://illinoisstate.edu/admissions/undocumented/

Luvia Moreno, director of undocumented student resources at Northeastern, said, “This past semester has been the highest number of visits from students saying they are anxious, they are depressed.” She said the students fear they or family members will be deported.

Many undocumented students attending college in Illinois and elsewhere are protected from deportation under the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program instituted through an executive order during the Obama administration. President Donald Trump announced that would be rescinded in March.

A bipartisan deal on DACA and other immigration issues appeared close but was thrown into doubt by the president's more recent comments.

For Daniel Lopez, Northeastern's vice president for student affairs, it's more than an academic exercise. He came to the United States as an undocumented 10-year-old, crossing the border near San Diego with his family. The Reagan-era amnesty program gave him legal status.

“That's why I do this kind of work. I know what it's like,” said Lopez, who received his doctoral degree from ISU.

Follow Lenore Sobota on Twitter @Pg_Sobota

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