SANTA MARIA, Calif. - Allan Hancock College joins community colleges across the state in "Undocumented Student Week of Action", a student-led campaign that hopes to connect students with the right resources after recent dropouts. The effort also calls for a permanent solution to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA).
Hancock educators report Donald Trump's administration has influenced undocumented students' education.
“One of the biggest barriers that I saw a year ago –from last year to this year because of the new administration –was this fear," explained Maite Solis, advisor at the undocumented organization on campus, Dream Club. “We think we lost over 200 students that were undocumented.”
Dream Club president, Jessica Zarate, said her peers are foregoing an education because they're not informed about campus resources available to them regardless of immigration status.
“Undocumented students are not really aware of what resources they have,” Zarate explained.
Help with tuition is one of them. Undocumented students like Zarate don't qualify for most state and federal financial aid programs, but they can be eligible to private scholarships or grants through the California Dream Act (different from the federal bill proposing a pathway to citizenship to some immigrants).
“You are eligible for scholarships, so just bringing that awareness...that's the biggest barrier that I saw,” said Solis.
This week, the community college is training faculty and staff on issues undocumented students face, too.
“When [students] are aware that their instructors, their teachers, the staff working here really are interested in their success, and they understand what they're going through, it's easier for them to open up,” Solis explained. "Education actually brings down barriers. For our community to flourish, we need to support each other. Education can bring economic wealth to our campus and to our community. It also empowers.”
Dream Club members said that in spite of the Trump administration's sentiment towards undocumented immigrants, other students at Hancock have been mostly accepting or tolerant of their recent efforts.
Dream Club members are also sending out postcards to Congressman Salud Carbajal and asking for a permanent solution to DACA.
Other workshops throughout Undocumented Student Week of Action include a "Know your rights" clinic, DACA renewal assistance, and a "Healing Circle" aimed at promoting mental wellness.