Shifting Ears: Cal’s Undocumented Community Enters a New Era

By: Alejandro Jimenez

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Welcome back to Comunidad at Cal, a blog for and by our Latina/o community at U.C. Berkeley.

As the school year gets underway the campus is buzzing with new goals and optimism. It’s a fresh start for returning students and an exciting one for freshmen and transfers. For undocumented students, the Undocumented Student Program at the Cesar Chavez Student Center is the first destination. In just three weeks over a hundred dreamers have received the assistance of the USP’s services.

While financial aid, work study, and dedicated counseling is now available to undocu Cal bears, community leaders wait on our new Chancellor, Nicholas Dirks, commitment to the cause. Former Chancellor Birgeneau was a leader in this area and facilitated many important changes. Progress was made as students, staff, and faculty worked together to knock down barriers for dreamers at Cal. But will those changes ultimately be made across all of the UCs? How will the climate towards immigrant communities be affected now that President Obama’s deportation specialist, Janet Napolitano, has become our newest UC President?

The USP is evidence of how much things have changed in just 3 years, but where does the student movement go from here? While DACA will allow students and recent graduates to land jobs, immigration reform and citizenship for all students and families is far from certain. Students may be receiving help on campus, but family members still face deportation back home.

So where do we stand as we enter a new era of institutional leadership?

UC Berkeley is the campus where student movements shook the status quo and ASUC Senator Sean Tan continues that tradition as he leads a bill of no confidence against Napolitano. The school year starts fast and it is a sprint to winter break, yet undocumented advocates must be able to slow down and ask; where do we go from here? What employment challenges are we still facing on campus? Will graduate dreamers be able to teach? Can they work like regular graduate students as GSI’s? These questions still linger as summer turns to autumn.

The issues of financial aid and access to basic services are being addressed for undergrads but other areas remain in the shadows. Science and math (S.T.E.M) research is still a walk in the dark for undocu scholar researchers. Former Cal dreamer Terrence Park shed some light on the brilliance of undocu math scholars, yet fields other than social science and humanities have yet to expand research and publishing opportunities for dreamers.

Much has changed but the community must continue to be assertive in the pursuit of access to all areas of the university.

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