By Bri Wingfield
Undocumented Student Services held an open house Wednesday to educate and familiarize students and faculty with the location, services and opportunities available to the undocumented community on campus.
For twenty years, students and faculty have fought and advocated for the rights and equity of undocumented students at Cal Poly Pomona.
The development of Undocumented Student Services marks what could be a favorable turning point in the journey.
CPP is currently home to more than 550 undocumented studentsand many are not open about the status of their citizenship.
The road to higher education is a formidable one for undocumented students.
They are often faced with higher tuition fees, inadequate access to financial aid and an overall lack of easily accessible information.
Undocumented students must navigate barriers such as the AB 540 and the California Dream Act in order to keep the costs of school relatively manageable.
The AB 540 allows students to pay in-state tuition as opposed to the more costly international tuition they are charged without it, and the Dream Act gives students access to grant awards from their institutions.
Neither provides students the eligibility to receive federal financial aid.
According to Undocumented Student Services coordinator Mike Pedro, there is often a sense of fear for students when filling out forms such as the ones previously stated, and they are unlikely to ask for help, so as not to expose their undocumented status.
Without knowledge of the few financial assistance opportunities available to them, some undocumented students resort to taking leaves of absence from school in order to work full time and save money for tuition.
Not only does this increase the time it takes students to graduate, but also decreases their likelihood of ever graduating.
Undocumented students are also faced with a lack of resources geared towards their community on campus.
Pedro stated, “[Undocumented Student Services] will assist in the holistic growth of students, academic and personal.”
Undocumented Student Services offers one-on-one counseling, consultation for the AB 540 and Dream Act, referrals for legal and social services, workshops and Dreamer Ally training.
Beyond that, they are working to remove the stigma of undocumented persons for the whole community, a way to access more undocumented students than they have been able to previously.
The open house also included speeches from University President Soraya M. Coley, Associated Students, Inc. Vice President Gabriel Smith and others.
In her address to the crowd, Coley acknowledged the impediments and barriers undocumented students face.
Coley plans to continue working with undocumented student advocates to “ensure [the] success of students regardless of their origin or background.”
“It is exciting and great to see staff and students in support of undocumented students. It is not easy to come out and say you are undocumented,” said D.E.P.I.E. Treasurer and undocumented senior Jorge Jeronimo after attending the open house.
Jeronimo has chosen to be open about his undocumented status.
“It’s who I am, I’m not scared,” said Jeronimo.
For years, student-run organizations and faculty have advocated for a nonacademic space, similar to the Cultural Centers, for undocumented students on campus.
Currently, Undocumented Student Services is located in a single office.
Smith spoke about working closely with D.E.P.I.E, a club for immigrant and AB 540 students to figure out the logistics of building a center on campus for undocumented students.
He noted, “Every student needs a place to go where they can identify.”
The co-chair of D.E.P.I.E, Jonathan Vazquez, described the need for a place on campus for undocumented students to congregate as a community, a place where the status of their citizenship does not need to be questioned, but mostly a place where undocumented students can always feel safe and relax.
Kayla Anderson / The Poly Post
Undocumented Student Services
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