Undocumented students’ struggle for access to higher education inspired Assembly Bill 21 which reflects the immigrant community in California’s education system.
Assembly Bill 21 protects access to financial aid for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) recipients if the federal program is terminated.
Thanks to DACA, initiated by the Obama Administration, the undocumented student community is able to attend college at an in-state resident rate.
With campaign promises that included the termination of DACA, the Trump Administration’s silence on the future of the program worries its current recipients.
Assembly member Ash Karla, who authored the bill, said all people, no matter of their immigration status, have the right to access affordable education.
There should not be any fear inside of the educational system. The system should protect students from thinking about dropping out of school because of fear, Karla said.
AB 21 also directs campuses to designate a liaison charged with providing resources monthly and notifying teachers and students if immigration enforcement agents are near or on campus.
It also states campuses must also create a policy that “limits assistance” to immigration services as much as the law permits.
Contra Costa College counselor Norma Valdez-Jimenez said there needs to be a heightened sense of awareness about what can be done to create support for the educational success of undocumented because “education is the great equalizer.”
She said even though CCC does value the contributions of undocumented students, not every campus in the state has made the resolution to opt for sanctuary status.
She said this is a direct response to the anti-immigration policies President Trump has put in place and urges campuses to support undocumented students.
“Fear still exists in everyday conversation,” Valdez-Jimenez said.
Many of the immigrant students that she has encountered on campus have expressed concerns about their future in the United States, she said. Sometimes undocumented students know they are seen as “moochers” of government assistance, but in reality there is a persevering and self-improving culture among them in the educational system.