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DREAM Act hits home with CSULB

“Graduation Begins Today,” is a well- known slogan to students of Cal State Long Beach. Posted throughout campus on banners and light posts, the phrase is meant to remind students they need to work toward graduating.

However, this message does not always apply to the entire student body. For many, graduation is not within reach because of their immigration status in the United States.

Although graduation may not “begin today,” many students throughout California and at CSULB finally gained a sense of hope after Gov. Jerry Brown signed the second half of the state’s DREAM Act.

The act, which stands for Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors, was first introduced in 2001 and has two parts: AB 130 and AB 131.

AB 130 was signed into law in July and allows undocumented students to apply for private financial aid and scholarships. AB 131, the second half signed recently, allows undocumented students access to state financial aid at public universities and community colleges.

Last Wednesday, Tony Ortuno was one of five students arrested for engaging in civil disobedience.

The five demonstrators, all part of “The Dream Team,” were in downtown Los Angeles demanding administrative relief from the Obama administration.

Ortuno said he believes that his status as an undocumented immigrant should not affect his involvement in demonstrations and outreach.

And, although this involvement and his legal status may lead to arrest and ultimately deportation, Ortuno said the risk is necessary.

“In taking that risk, it was more about taking a stand for myself and taking a stand for my sister, who is also undocumented, and for my community,” he said. “It’s for the students who have been arrested in the past, to show that this movement will keep going until we receive something from the administration that promised us the Dream Act but failed to deliver.”

Gloria Inzuza-Franco, director of Mi Casa: Mi Universidad, works closely with many AB-540 students from CSULB who are directly impacted by the DREAM Act. AB-540, which was passed in 2001, allowed certain undocumented students to pay in-state tuition instead of out-of-state tuition.

“We have so many young adults who are so committed and work really hard and take so many units eachsemester to get their money’s worth because funding their education is a huge challenge,” Inzuza-Franco said. “The sad part of it is that they are working so hard with very little available to them at the end of that journey, so they end up with a Bachelor’s degree, but they don’t have the opportunity for employment because they are not permanent residents.”

She said the DREAM Act is a necessity for many students across the U.S.

Dario Fernandez, a former AB 540 student knows the difficulties of being an undocumented student. Now, working with Mi Casa: Mi Universidad, Fernandez helps students out in similar situations.

Fernandez said undocumented students are more common than people think.

“They are already in your classes, you might not know about it, you might have a study group with them, they might be your friend; But they might not have ousted themselves with their legal status,” he said.

Fernandez, regardless of status, said the DREAM Act is an issue of fairness and equity in a person’s pursuit of education and he sees hope for the future of undocumented students in the U.S.

“They don’t get the Cal Grants or the Pell Grants from the federal government,” Fernandez said. “They pay into it, they pay the tuition that’s going to go into it, your Cal Grant, but they are not going to get the benefit of getting an award, Cal Grant A or B, anything like that. So they are paying into the system but they are not receiving any rewards from [it].”

 


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