With Obama’s new executive order concerning the status of undocumented immigrants, many concerns and questions have surfaced for undocumented students on campus.
Pasadena City College’s United Without Boundaries is a club that focuses on the awareness of students attending college under AB 540, a California law allowing undocumented students to attend state schools while paying resident fees.
Up until now, the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, also known as the DREAM Act, has protected young undocumented students from being deported. According to the White House’s official DREAM Act page, some of the requirements include “proof that they entered the U.S. before they were 16 years old, proof that they have continuously lived in the U.S. for at least 5 years and have graduated from a U.S. high school or obtained a GED, demonstration of good moral character, and proof that they have not committed any crimes that would make them inadmissible to the country.”
With the immigration executive order still in the process of building a proper foundation, it is still uncertain if it will affect AB 540 students who may or may not be covered under the DREAM Act.
Nevertheless, UWB members are focusing their energy on getting the word out to bring awareness to students who may need help figuring out their rights, what actions they can take to help further their education, and what type of programs are available at colleges and universities that will protect them as students.
“We are going to spend the Winter break to work on setting up workshops to help undocumented students with applications for the DREAM Act and [financial aid],” said Luis Guerrero , UWB’s Inter-Club Council Representative. “On top of that, we want to involve the financial aid staff to help aid them into how they can help undocumented students as well.”
According to Guerrero, there are approximately 15 states in the nation that offer protection for undocumented students. The issue is, however, that not many of those students, or faculty and staff members, are aware of them or properly trained to offer essential information for them.
Guerrero and other students in the club who have attained citizenship who call themselves “allies” believe that with more exposure, they will be able to attain more sympathy and support for AB 540 students.
“We’ve become more active with trying to advertise and get the word out,” said Jose Villalon , UWB’s President. “When people are unaware, it makes it difficult for undocumented students to seek help… We have a ‘Coming Out of the Shadows’ event where undocumented students are encouraged to come out and share their story. It’s nerve-wracking to expose yourself out there like that, but I noticed that once students partake in that activity, it’s like a huge weight is lifted off their shoulders… It’s a great thing to see.”
The UWB’s strong belief that all students should have the right to proper education and a future is what fuels the club to continue supporting AB 540 students and their families.
“I always felt that education is power. I believe that whoever wants to learn should have the right to learn… This is just the start of a movement,” explained Alejandra Garcia, the UWB’s current social event and fundraiser coordinator and next semester’s vice president. “People sometimes forget that undocumented students are just like any other student… There are so many stereotypes as to what an undocumented student is supposed to be, but there are so many different types. It’s not just Hispanics.”
“It’s true that most of our club members are Hispanic right now,” added Villalon. “Our goal for next year is to break down those barriers. It’s not easy to reach out to undocumented students of different races, but we are aware that there are many Asian undocumented students, as well as other students from different countries such as Jamaica… We are working towards a more diverse group.”
To get involved with the United Without Boundaries club or have any inquires, please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org