AB 540 training aimed to help daca students


Denis Perez / The Advocate

Counselor Alfred Zuniga (left) explains how to use Insite Portal to create an educational plan during a counseling session in the Student Service Center on Sept. 19.

By Michael Santone, Associate Editor

As the Trump administration continues to besiege on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, life for Contra Costa College’s undocumented student community is in disarray.

In hopes of alleviating concerns, the counseling department is preparing further training for its staff that is aimed at educating to better support the affected student body.

“We want to make sure we have the most current understanding of the policies so our students have access and help with navigating the system,” counseling department Chairperson Sarah Boland said.

“This has always been the culture of the campus. We want all the info we can get to create a climate of trust and inclusion.”

The workshop, to be held in mid-October, will center on DACA, which was rescinded on Sept. 5 by Attorney General Jeff Sessions leaving 800,000 undocumented students in the U.S. fearful and vulnerable.

The training will focus on alternative resources such as the California Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act (Dream Act) and Assembly Bill 540 (AB 540).

Both the Dream Act, which allows eligible undocumented students to apply for state financial aid, and AB 540 which allows students to pay the in-state tuition fee of $46 per semester unit, are mandated by the state of California.

The out-of-state tuition for non-qualifiers is $269 per unit.

Much like the training given back in the fall of 2016, CCC counselor Norma Valdez-Jimenez will be leading the two-hour workshop and discussion.

“Counseling as a department cares about what’s going on and the complexity of what surrounds our students,” Valdez-Jimenez said.

Although the prior training did not branch out to other departments, the idea for this workshop is to bring faculty leaders together on campus.

“All student services’ staff need to be informed and trained to filter what students need and how faculty can form a direct connection to help,” Valdez-Jimenez said. “It’s more than how it affects students, but how we can protect students.”

Boland said the workshop that Valdez-Jimenez did last fall was in depth and covered almost everything about AB 540, but with the addition of new faculty and staff, there is a need for a refreshment training so everyone is on the same page.

“There are other options out there that DACA students can benefit from,” Boland said. “We (faculty) want to be aware and informed so we can help students access and complete forms they would need for the Dream Act and AB 540.”

Sometimes students suppress the fact that they are undocumented out of fear, she said.

“By students identifying themselves as undocumented, insecurities are brought out and it is scary for them. A lot of trust must be established,” Boland said. “Although our campus is a sanctuary campus and safe zone, we are looking to build on to that with outside resources.”

Richard Sanchez is one of the 800,000 students whose life hangs in the balance after the recent push to cancel DACA. As a mechanical engineering major, Sanchez said the counseling department has been great, but sometimes it feels like a “wild goose chase” when looking for information.

“It would be better if they can give students that are arriving into the college experience a guide to opportunities as an undocumented student,” he said. “There were times that I reached for help about what financial aid I qualified for and I got directed somewhere else. Most of the things I know about my status and education I researched myself.”

Sanchez said there are a lot of uncertainties with what Trump is planning to do with the undocumented community and that it’s frightening to be used as a political token to promote an agenda.

“There’s comfort in knowing we are not alone in this fight and there are people still fighting for our dreams and goals.”