Pamphlet guides, aids undocumented students

By Ryan Geller, News Editor

Creators of Contra Costa College’s information pamphlet for undocumented students are delaying the publication of the latest version so the most up-to-date information can be included.

The recent U.S. District Court injunction and the congressional bargaining on immigration that is playing out this week are the latest tectonic shifts that have held up the ‘Keeping the Dream Alive” pamphlet, STEM Councilor Lorena González said.

González expects the updated version, as well as a Spanish language translation, to be out by the end of February.

The current version, now available in the Student Services Center, contains key facts about the potential termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). It also includes a step-by-step guide on applying for California financial aid and scholarships/grants, a list of legal and educational resources and a “know your rights” informational card.

The pamphlet includes a memorandum from Jacob Knapp, acting general counsel for the California Community College Chancellor’s Office.

“The ‘unwinding’ of DACA does not impact a student’s ability to attend our colleges, qualify for an exemption from non-resident tuition fees under AB540, or to apply for financial aid under the provisions of the California Dream Act,” he said. “AB540 and the California Dream Act are state programs that are entirely separate and distinct from DACA.”

The “Keeping the Dream Alive” pamphlet was first published two and a half years ago at CCC as a project to help undocumented students understand the educational path that laws like AB540 and the California Dream Act offer, Student Equity Coordinator Mayra Padilla said.

Faculty involved with the CCC equity plan asked then student Valeria Avila to lead the effort, Padilla said. Avila pulled together a group of undocumented students and posed the question: “What would you like to have known about navigating the educational system?”

The original pamphlet was a collection of the answers to this question, along with a list of additional resources.

The project was edited with the help of González who added a section on managing mental health to the recent publications of the pamphlet.

“You have to take into account the emotional roller coaster that undocumented students have in transitioning from one country to another, and then add to that the fear of disclosing your status or information and thinking, ‘Am I going to be supported?’”  González said.

She said the threat is not just deportation but possibly being separated from your family.

Gonzales said it is important to have good mental health resources available so undocumented students can have tools to remain focused through the challenges happening at the same time.

The upcoming publication of “Keeping the Dream Alive” will also include a Spanish language version translated by González.

The guide is for undocumented students but also for family and friends because there are many mixed status families.

“The guide is also geared for faculty and staff. As an educational institution we are under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act,” Gonzalez said.

The pamphlet notes that FERPA is a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records.

On the back cover of the pamphlet is a poem by Roxana Amparo, who is an undocumented student at CCC. The last lines of the poem are in Spanish: “Mujer de color, sin documentos. No peso nada para viento. Para si no hoy, cuando sera mi tiempo?”

Amparo offered this version in English: “Although I am an undocumented woman of color, I am weightless. I cannot be stopped.”