Thanks to the presidential election last fall, HSU administration has decided to prioritize undocumented students. After three years of discussion and student efforts, the MultiCultural Center is planning to house an UndocuCenter by the end of this month to provide a number of resources to students in need.
Samyrha Saba is one of the students from F.R.E.E. that has worked closely with administrators over the years to establish the center. Saba said that “ensuring that university services are trained and know how to provide resources to undocumented students,” is of most importance as they develop the center.
Finding Resources and Empowerment through Education (F.R.E.E.), a student club, has been urging HSU to create a center where undocumented students can have access to resources like immigration services. Since 2009, their primary goal has been to educate the campus about what undocumented students need in order to achieve the academic success that Humboldt State constantly promotes.
In 2013, Vice President of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs, Peg Blake, created a task force with students to focus on how to support the undocumented student population. Recommendations were made and the creation of the center was one of them. The reason it has taken some time has been due to time, money, and people, according to Blake.
“Beyond that, we will all need to continue to figure out how to best provide the support needed for this student population. Finding permanent funding is a big challenge, but one that we are continuing to pursue.” Blake said.
César Abarca, a professor in the department of social work, is the adviser for F.R.E.E. Abarca explained that students who deal with applications like DACA or AB 540 are usually turned away by the financial aid office.
“We continue to press administration to find resources,” Abarca said “with HSI status it is even more pressing.”
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) does not provide a pathway to citizenship.This application gives undocumented students the chance to obtain a work permit and driver’s license as students. The application requires a fee of $465 and must be renewed every two years. Administrators are not trained on how to assist residents or permit holders, so many will quickly refer students to F.R.E.E. for help.
Other schools across California are beginning to provide resource centers like the UndocuCenter hopes to be. CSU Long Beach, UC Davis, and UC Berkeley have fully staffed centers that provide a number of resources such as immigration services, an attorney nearby, and even mental health services that focus on supporting any student that stresses over their status.
“We want to not only provide support for students but be involved with the community and share the resources, we need immigration services,” Abarca said.
In the future, the goal is to have the UndocuCenter become just as present as the centers for academic excellence. They want to collaborate with the community and they aim to open it up to others like the College of the Redwoods and local high schools so their services are available to all in need.
“We want to create a space that links student success to graduation,” Abarca said. “We’re not only talking about brown people, hopefully this center will be able to serve all undocumented students.”