Informational activities highlight week of action

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During the week of Oct. 14-18, Delta College and other community colleges throughout California engaged in the Undocumented Student Week of Action, a student-led campaign which raises awareness and provides resources and information to help support undocumented students.

Delta College’s Dream Center in Holt 201 hosted webinars from Immigrants Rising, an organization which supports and empowers undocumented immigrants to achieve educational and career goals.

Webinars on different topics streamed every day of the week, including legal services, financial aid and emotional well-being.

The panelists in each webinar encouraged students to visit the Immigrants Rising website at immigrantsrising.org for more resources and information.

Legal Services for Undocumented Students

“It’s a 24-hour hotline that people can call if they see or suspect immigration activity,” said Higher Education Fellow Mayra Palagio. 

“We provide free attorneys in the case that somebody is detained, so that they can help the person get out of detention as soon as possible.”

These hotlines started in 2017 for the purpose of protecting members of the community and are divided into the northern, central and southern regions of California.

San Joaquin County doesn’t have a number for this hotline service, with the Sacramento region being the closest with a number.

Students can get free immigration legal services and information on their immigration status in the Dream Center from immigration attorney Bianca Duenas.

“I’m here on campus a few times a month and I provide free immigration consultations and legal services to those that may need it,” said Duenas.

Duenas let students know that they can schedule appointments with her to discuss issues on immigration and get serviced at no charge.

“For a lot of people they may not know where to access legal assistance and for some if you go to a private attorney they will charge, so here at Delta our services are free so they can receive free legal services and it’s also more accessible because it’s on campus for them.”

These resources are not only limited to students, as anyone can use these services.

“We’re prioritizing students, but I’ve seen staff members and other people from campus. The remedies that are available are sometimes based on other family members, so sometimes when I meet with students I may have to ask them information about grandparents and parents.”

Although Duenas is already on Delta’s campus a few times a month, her office will move to the Dreamers Center as of Nov. 1 for consultations each week on Thursdays.

Financial Aid for Immigrants

Director of Higher Education Nancy Jodailis spoke about financial aid for students and how they can apply regardless of immigration status.

“Out of the 160 scholarships that they have available here for the students about five of them require U.S. citizenship,” said Marisol Hernandez, marketing and outreach specialist at Delta College.

The webinar focused on the basics of applying for financial aid including applications for FAFSA or the California Dream Act and also detailed the opportunities provided by SB68, a bill passed in 2017 which expanded options for students to be eligible for in-state tuition.

“SB68 took it way beyond high school and it says now that students at adult schools and community colleges can use that time to be able to get in-state tuition,” said Jodailis.

Before SB68 was passed requirements were only limited to high school with AB540.

The webinar demonstrated differences in how much money students eligible for the California Dream Act pays, versus non-eligible students. For example, an eligible student attending UC Berkeley pays $7,034 while a non-eligible student pays $41,622.

The webinar also included Immigrants Rising Fellow Hugo Munoz sharing his story about how he benefited from grants as a student.

“In my particular case, I have been able to benefit from the California Promise Grant formerly known as BOGG, it paid for my tuition,” said Munoz.

Munoz graduated from high school in 1994 and is a returning community college student at Skyline College.

“Those of us who graduated high school in the 1990s had to get creative and find ways to pay our bills and tuition. Now you have a lot more resources and options, I encourage everyone to take advantage of them.”

There are many scholarship opportunities available for students regardless of citizenship status.

Overcoming Fear

The panelists demonstrated in a presentation how undocumented immigrants avoid routine activities such as driving a car, speaking to school officials or going to public places.

“We start to make decisions in our own head and play a bunch of different scenarios and say, ‘no I’m just going to go back into my cocoon’ and not ask for help,” said Entrepreneurship Fund Grantee, Edem Tomtania.

Panelists encourage immigrants to be proactive and make themselves visible.

Tomtania said asking for help isn’t going to do any harm if the support is denied.

“I can pick up the phone and call somebody and ask for some kind of funding even knowing that they might say no, what do I have to lose?”

Hiding in fear makes asking for help a difficult task for undocumented immigrants to do.

“It’s difficult because often times we see all the obstacles that are put into our life that we often times forget all the opportunities and resources that we have available,” said Luis Cisneros, an undocumented immigrants’ rights activist who visited Delta’s Dream Center during the event.