Finding their voices: Peer advocates help undocumented students navigate resources

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I Am/Yo Soy club President Erika Reyes, third from left, speaks during a banner drop event on the forum walkway on Oct. 9. Below, a crowd gathers to watch the banner drop. Photo by Jeff Leiva.
I Am/Yo Soy club President Erika Reyes, third from left, speaks during a banner drop event on the forum walkway on Oct. 9. Below, a crowd gathers to watch the banner drop. Photo by Jeff Leiva.

According to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, as of late 2017, when the Trump administration stopped accepting new applicants for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), Stockton and Lodi had 3,100 active DACA recipients. Stockton and Lodi make up 0.5 percent of all DACA applicants in the nation, more than El Paso, Texas. 

At Delta College, there are an estimated 800 undocumented Students, many of those students do not have DACA. 

Applying for financial aid, scholarships and just having access to resources can be especially difficult if one is undocumented. 

Erika Reyes, President of the club I am/Yo Soy, seeks to create a student movement on Delta’s campus to campaign in favor of DACA.

Reyes saw the need to create a formal club where students can have a “safe space and be part of a community,” Reyes said. 

She was able to get in contact with professors. Reyes was told at one point, Delta had a club for undocumented students. However “they feared showing up,” Reyes said. 

Reyes isn’t an undocumented immigrant herself. However, she understands the struggles students have to undergo when they have to live in the shadows. 

Reyes got to work on organizing a formal club on campus. At the beginning of April, Reyes was able to get the I Am/Yo Soy club afloat. 

In 2016, Delta College passed a resolution in support of DACA students.

The Office of Student Equity and Diversity began organizing annual Dream conferences to give students and families access to different resources that could help them with opportunities for higher education. 

When Reyes brought up the idea of having a resource center for undocumented students on campus, she was told by some staff members “it wasn’t the right time,” Reyes said.

She reached out to community leaders and was able to get in contact with professors and politicians that supported the movement. 

Reyes credits Board of Trustees member Janet Rivera and Assistant Superintendent Dr. Lisa Cooper-Wilkins for being the most vocal and supportive of having a resource center for undocumented students on campus. 

Reyes also sought support from the City of Stockton. She reached out to Senior Policy Adviser Max Vargas. 

Vargas helped Reyes get in contact with different venues of support within the Stockton community. 

Mayor of Stockton Michael Tubbs, submitted a letter of support to Delta College’s Board of Trustees in support of a Dream Center. 

Tubbs states, “given Stockton’s population, where more than one in four residents is foreign born, a DREAM Center would prove especially fitting and beneficial.”

Reyes and student activist, Gloria Alonso-Cruz, organized and rallied for a Dream Center earlier this year. 

The Board of Trustees unanimously approved for the resolution and were able to centralize resources and opportunities for undocumented students in one safe space.

Delta College now has three centralized areas of support for undocumented students. 

According to Immigrants Rising, the organization that has given Delta College the Catalyst Grant, released a guide earlier this month stating, “three pillars of a strong undocumented student support program are: a undocumented student club, a dream center, and a task force to support undocumented students.”

Delta College now has the three pillars, I am/Yo Soy club, the Dreamers Success Center, and an Undocumented Student Task Force, which Alonso-Cruz and Reyes are a part of.

With Reyes’ community involvement and Alonso-Cruz’s activism Delta’s support for undocumented students has strengthened.