Ever since Trump’s inauguration on Jan 20th, students and administration have felt unsure about what will happen with students who qualify for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). President Trump has long held a strong position against “illegal-immigration” which has made undocumented students nationwide feel uneasy about not only their future, but also their entire family’s.
UC Merced’s Chancellor Dorothy Leland sent an e-mail reassuring students about the University of California’s devotion to its students, “Regardless of what unfolds over the next few years, I am fighting for you, our students, our faculty, and our staff every step of the way.” The UC system has a variety of resources and well-qualified staff that aid undocumented students such as UC Merced’s Services for Undocumented Students and Special Populations which provides free legal service, and through the UC Undocumented Legal Services Center at UC Davis, to not only undocumented and mixed-status students but their families as well. The arrays of services include: institutional scholarships, loans, legal services, UndocuPeer Training, and the Dream Career Academy.
Alejandro Delgadillo, the Associate Director of the Calvin E. Bright Success Center who also oversees Services for Undocumented Students and Special Populations, discussed in depth some misconceptions some have about undocumented students, services provided by UC Merced, and what allies can do to help other students. “We’ve branched out even more, not just with undocumented students, but we’re working with Guardian Scholars who are former foster youth, we’re working with special populations, and what I mean by special populations is these are non-profits that we work with and have agreements with to support their students that come to UC Merced,” explains Mr. Delgadillo.
The California Dream act, which provides undocumented students with state financial aid, has come under fire for taking away taxpayer dollars for the undocumented. It is made up of two different assembly bills, AB 130 and 131, that address financial aid at the state level, allowing individual institutions award scholarships, such as the Bobcat Grant. A similar law, Assembly Bill 540 (AB 540) allows undocumented students that have attended a California high school for 3 years or longer and graduated from a CA high school to qualify for in-state college tuition, but do not qualify for federal student aid.
“So a lot of people say, “Well you’re taking away money from U.S citizens and residents, people who did things accordingly when immigrating to the United States,” but the thing about it is that there was always money intended in Cal-Grant [and] for low-income students but not all low-income students were qualifying for admission or attended college. Therefore we have a surplus of students, we look at how many students graduate from California high schools every year and there are over 1,600 high schools in California, and of those 1,600 high schools, 25,000 of these students that are graduating from these schools are undocumented. Yet, less than 1,200 were attending a University of California or even CSU’s because they couldn’t afford it. But, California’s DREAM Act has now increased that number of students. So, there are laws in California despite whatever Trump does at the federal level, in the state of California… that support our undocumented immigrants,” explains Mr. Delgadillo.
UC Merced has sculpted a welcoming environment tailored for undocumented students; allies have been a large part of this process. “Allies are important in creating a more inclusive environment. It is important to have allies in the classroom, so that when you have a student who, you’re wondering why they’re not performing well and they’re telling you, “Well I have 2 jobs and so forth… I fall asleep in class and I’m sorry about that, but do you understand why?” [it is] because they don’t have any financial aid, they’re putting themselves through school on their own and they’re working these two jobs so they can pay for their books and their tuition…It is important to have allies because we need to be sure they have the means to pay for their education and their circumstances,” states Alejandro Delgadillo. Allies are especially crucial in encouraging for such programs to continue to exist and to create an environment that promotes inclusivity and safety.
In order to continue to train allies, the Services for Undocumented Students and Special Populations has created the UndocuAlly Training program that teaches and informs about, “the needs of undocumented students, polices and laws pertaining to undocumented students, resources available for undocumented students, and ways individuals can be allies,” this UndocuAlly training is open to clubs, staff, and faculty, in order to create a more well-informed community of staff, students, and faculty that can aid a continuously growing community.
For more information on resources available to undocumented students, visit their website or follow them on Facebook to check out one of their upcoming events.
Photo Credit: United We Dream