DACA talk a success

Many people don’t stop to think about how lucky they are to have been born in the United States. Being a U.S. citizen unlocks many opportunities including: funding for education, having the option to serve in the military, access to different fields of employment and not having to worry if you and your loved ones will be deported at any moment.

There are people in the United States who want an education, but because they are undocumented many of them don’t know how to get help or who to trust to ask for information.

On Nov. 13, the EXITO Grant Team and Looking In – Looking Out Committee held LMC’s second Tertulias Brown Bag Lunch meeting. Project Director of the Hispanic Serving Institutions Grant Rosa Armendáriz had arranged the meeting. The topic of the meeting was one that needed to be heard, “Deferred Action and Beyond: DACA, the California Dream Act & Making College a Reality for Undocumented Students”.

Transfer Academy students Sarai Espinoza, Crystal Cuevas and Alicia Rojas put their heads together to create an informative presentation called “El Camino Para un Futuro Mejor,” which translates to, “A Path to a Better Future”. They also put together a brochure containing information from their presentation on the Dream Act and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

The presentation and brochure were both in Spanish so parents of undocumented students would be able to understand the information as well. Some undocumented families have children who speak English because they grew up in the United States, but their elders struggle to adapt to the language since they did not have that opportunity.

Espinoza, Cuevas and Rojas wanted to make a point to help include family members so the knowledge would not be restricted which is often a problem with literature.

According to Educators for Fair Consideration, “Assembly Bills 130 & 131 known as the California Dream Act of 2011, are laws that increase access to financial aid for undocumented students who attend a public university, community college or private college in California. In order to qualify, students must meet the requirements of AB 540 and not be eligible to apply for the FAFSA.”

The AB 540 requirements can be viewed at http://www.e4fc.org/resources/californiadreamact.html. Further information and instructions on how to apply can also be found online.

The students who presented included information on different types of grants undocumented students would be eligible for if they are covered under the Dream Act and DACA. The information included different types of schools available (CSU, UC and community college levels) showing that there are different grants available for each.

Rodrigo Dorador is an outreach organizer with Educators for Fair Consideration who spends his time sharing his story and informing educational institutions on undocumented students and what they can do to build their future. Dorador was the final speaker at the meeting.

“I’m not just undocumented, I’m a lot more than that,” Dorador shared proudly. Dorador presented on the Dream Act and DACA while adding information about the application process, news, laws and legislations and support groups those undocumented individuals may find helpful. Going through the process of applying for recognition and benefits can be hard to handle alone, which is why the Educators for Fair Consideration has resources listed on their website and offers assistance finding legal help.

Dorador shared how there is a $465 DACA application fee and people may have a difficult time affording the cost. The E4FC works with the Mission Asset Fund in San Francisco and is considered a “Lending Circle” that will pay $155 as a charitable donation and will loan the applicant the rest of the funds.

With each obstacle that may arrise in the application process Dorador is proud the E4FC has come together to provide resources and peer support.

Dorador shared what he has experienced working with the non-profit, “Sometimes folks don’t know there are benefits that exist they can apply for. One of the biggest issues that prevent people from getting assistance is that they don’t know what people are going to do with their information.

“At the same time, coming out as undocumented has been one of the biggest strengths in the student movement. I have seen students claim their status and publically announce they are undocumented to directly challenge immigration.”

Dorander added, “We found that we could organize something to stop people from being deported so we would hold coming out parties where we would say that we are undocumented and not afraid. It was empowering.”

The presentation was moving, eye opening and informative. Word got out about the presentation’s purpose and an anonymous individual attended with a relative in search of help on what to do with their future. When the individual reached out and asked for help and advice, there was so much warmth and support that came from the faculty who attended and all who presented. People were exchanging information and talking together on possible ways this individual could get assistance.

“It’s been so empowering working with other young people to go out and present with them so people can go out and pursue their dreams and get an education,” Dorador said.

Each presentation was informative and gave hope that there are ways undocumented students can build a life and get an education. Students, volunteers and faculty members came together to discuss an important issue that many people don’t recognize. People not only came to show their support but there was also an opportunity someone took to reach out and receive that support.

HSI Grant Director Rosa Armendáriz enjoyed the meeting. “The presentations were outstanding. I was especially excited to see the students present because it’s always nice to see the advocacy coming from our own students. The E4FC presentation was very informative and gave a lot of good details on the legislation in California that is up to date. Even if it’s just one student that we help, it’s worth it,” she stated.

This Brown Bag lunch meeting is one that will stick with those who attended for a very long time. The issue of undocumented students raised awareness that there are people who fear for their future. Together the students, faculty and volunteers showed that there are people who care and will start a movement in the right direction.