Undocumented Students Research & Arts Initiative

A collaboration of UC Berkeley partners led a research initiative from 2010-2013 to explore the topic of improving the campus climate for undocumented students at Berkeley. Funded by the UC Berkeley Innovation Grants for Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity, the initiative will:

  • Organize intentional community building efforts among undocumented students across lines of race, ethnicity, and national origin.
  • Launch an intensive engaged research project that collects critical data about the experiences and insights of undocumented students students at UC Berkeley.
  • Host a narrative writing project for Spring 2011, Researching & Writing Immigration.

The initiative produced the following publications:

  • research report about the campus climate for undocumented students
  • An anthology of creative writing by UC Berkeley undocumented students

The report findings were released at UndocuNation, a 2013 daylong symposium where scholars, activists, and artists explored insurgent citizenships and immigration justice at UC Berkeley, the Bay Area, and beyond, and an evening of culture jamming, visual art, and performances, hosted by Bay Area artist Favianna Rodríguez, that explored the consequences of violence against immigrant communities and liberatory visions for interventions based on creativity and art practice.

Project partners included the Center for Race & Gender (CRG), the Center for Latino Policy Research (CLPR), Multicultural Community Center (MCC), Rising Immigrant Students through Education (RISE), Multicultural Immigrant Student Program (MISP), Asian Pacific American Student development (APASD), and Chicano/Latino Student Development (CLSD). The project coordinated information with the Chancellor’s Task Force on Undocumented Members of the On-Campus Community.

For more information, please contact us at centerrg@berkeley.edu

A collaboration of UC Berkeley partners announce a research initiative to explore the topic of improving the campus climate for undocumented students at Berkeley. Funded by the UC Berkeley Innovation Grants for Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity, the initiative will:

  • Organize intentional community building efforts among undocumented students across lines of race, ethnicity, and national origin –
    Following the leadership of the undocumented student movement whose members have asserted how important it is for students to “come out of the shadows” to connect with each other and build together in order to effect a meaningful impact on the climate for undocumented students.
  • Launch an intensive engaged research project that collects critical data about the experiences and insights of undocumented students students at UC Berkeley –
    Leveraging the relationships with students nurted by project partners and created through community-building activities, we will launch an engaged community research project to gather important data about the full range of undocumented students at UC Berkeley, including their backgrounds, the experiences they have as undocumented students at Berkeley, the survival strategies they employ, how those strategies vary across ehtnic/cultural groups, and what kinds of specific supports need to be developed to improve the campus climate for undocumented students. This project will also exercise rigorous standards of confidentiality.
  • Host a narrative writing project for Spring 2011, Researching & Writing Immigration –
    Narrative writing will provide rich and humanizing qualitative data that will help create a three dimensional picture of the experiences of AB540 students.
  • Facilitate information distribution of findings from our community building and research projects –
    We will publish a report detailing research findings and suggested recommendations for improving the campus climate.

Project partners include the Center for Race & Gender (CRG), the Center for Latino Policy Research (CLPR), Multicultural Community Center (MCC), Rising Immigrant Students through Education (RISE), Multicultural Immigrant Student Program (MISP), Asian Pacific American Student development (APASD), and Chicano/Latino Student Development (CLSD). The project will also coordinate information with the Chancellor’s Task Force on Undocumented Members of the On-Campus Community. This initiative will be ongoing for Spring 2011 and Fall 2011 semesters.

For more information, please contact us at centerrg@berkeley.edu

Undocumented Students in the U.S.

An estimated 65,000 undocumented immigrant youth who graduate from the nation’s high schools every single year. A growing number of these graduates aspire to continue their education. Like other students from low-income families, they are often disadvantaged by lack of resources, role models, and information. Unlike other low-income students, they cannot work legally to help pay for their education and are ineligible for the most common sources of aid, federal Pell grants, student loans, and work-study support, as well as state scholarships. Additionally, in most states they have to pay out-of state tuition at public colleges and university.

California is among the eleven states that allow public universities to charge in-state tuition rates to all students who meet residency requirements and have graduated from high school in the state, regardless of legal status. The law that allows them to do so is AB540, and undocumented students refer to themselves as AB540 students.

Who are these students? Undocumented students are surprisingly diverse. One estimate of undocumented students enrolled in the ten University of California campuses during 2008-09 indicated that 49% were Latino, 45% were Asian, and 6% white, black, or other.

Several studies highlight the significant difficulties AB 540 students experience while struggling to stay in school and survive an isolating and sometimes hostile campus climate. Students experience an institutional invisibility on campus, living in a gray area between the extremes of legal and illegal. While the university, by admitting them and offering them in-state tuition, grants them de facto recognition as members of the community, their experience off campus, where they lack standing, also impacts their campus life. They cannot get a job at chain stores and eateries near campus; they cannot drive a car; sign a voter initiative; or drink in a bar — in short, do things that other students take for granted. They also have to hold in suspense the question of what they will do once they graduate from college, since under current law they can’t work legally. Students can subsequently experience a high level of economic stress as well as stress from social isolation resulting from the experience of being “closeted” because they keep their undocumented status a secret to protect themselves. Financial uncertainty and constant fear of legal and social reprisals can profoundly impact students’ school work and overall well-being.

Additionally, undocumented students have expressed the impact that “racist nativism,” or racism specifically targeted against undocumented immigrants, has on their lives. Racist nativism rests on a racialized belief system about who “belongs” in the US in general, and at public schools in particular. According to the UCLA study referenced above, students have made connections between the recently intensified climate of racist nativism in the US and the failure of educational institutions to acknowledge the presence of undocumented students on campus, effectively provide resources specific to their needs, and advocate for policies that would mitigate financial, social, and emotional barriers to academic success. Students reported that racist nativist beliefs “became apparent when their needs were not met, support was not provided and information was not allocated by their colleges and universities” and they also “described or alluded to feelings of fear, criminality, and invisibility.”

Further, there is a profound connection between the struggle of undocumented students and the crisis of public education in general. Although education is identified as an explicit social right and human right in documents such as the EU bill of rights, the US has not uniformly adopted such a clear right. Lack of adequate funding for public schools can be interpreted as violation of children’s right to education.

Despite their vulnerability, undocumented students have not allowed their lack of formal recognition to deter them from acting in the political realm. Students in Texas, New York, Illinois, Wisconsin, and many other states have organized locally and nationally to lobby legislatures, educate the public about pending legislation, and publicize their political opinions.

For more info, see:

Perez Huber, Lindsay; Malagon, Maria C.; and Solorzano, Daniel G. “Struggling for Opportunity: Undocumented AB 540 Students in the Latina/o Education Pipeline.”UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center, CSRC Research Report. No. 13, May 2009.

Perez Huber, et al. & Solórzano, Daniel, Walter R. Allen, and Grace Carroll. (2002). “Keeping Race in Place: Racial Microaggressions and Campus Racial Climate at the University of California, Berkeley.” Chicano Latino Law Review 23 (Spring): 15-112.

Working Together to Improve Campus Climate for Undocumented AB540 Students at UC Berkeley

A Research Report by UC Berkeley Center for Race & Gender and the Center for Latino Policy Research, February 2013

Executive Summary

Principal Investigators:

  • Dr. Lisa García Bedolla, Associate Professor of Education; Director of the Center for Latino Policy Research
  • Dr. Evelyn Nakano Glenn, Professor of Ethnic Studies & Gender and Women’s Studies; Director of the Center for Race and Gender

Graduate Student Researcher:

  • Kevin Escudero, M.A., Ph.D. Candidate;Department of Ethnic Studies

Campus and Community Partners:

  • Alisa Bierria (Associate Director, Center for Race & Gender)
  • Elisa Diana Huerta (Director, Multicultural Community Center)
  • Lupe Gallegos-Díaz (Director, Chicano/Latino Student Development)
  • Jere Takahashi (Director, Asian Pacific American Student Development)
  • Rising Immigrant Scholars through Education (R.I.S.E.)

This research report highlights the inception, scope and goals of the research project, “Working Together to Improve Campus Climate for Undocumented AB540 Students at UC Berkeley.” Funded by the Haas Foundation through the UC Berkeley Division of Equity & Inclusion, the project had three goals: 1) to initiate intentional community building efforts among undocumented students across the lines of race, ethnicity and national origin 2) to launch an investigative research project that collects critical data about the experiences and insights of undocumented students at UC Berkeley and 3) to facilitate the distribution of findings from our community building and research projects.

DOWNLOADS:

Executive Summary

FULL REPORT:

SUMMARY OF FINDINGS & RECOMMENDATIONS:

After extensive data collection and evaluation, we found:

  • Asian/Pacific Islander AB540 students are less involved in organizing around this issue and therefore often are less aware of the resources available to support AB540 students on campus.
  • Family dislocation and separation due to stringent immigration laws is a significant factor in undocumented students’ lives.
  • Many undocumented students first go to community college before they ultimately matriculate to Cal, making community colleges an important point in the K-12 to college pipeline.
  • Many campus entities had been working to provide support and resources to AB540 students, but there was no systematic cataloging of those resources and spaces. We attempt to provide that catalogue here.
  • Staff and faculty have been both unsupportive and very supportive of undocumented students, making it hard to know who students can trust on campus.
  • Despite the passage of AB130 and 131, the financial situation for AB540 students remains a challenge, and needs to continue to be addressed by Cal’s financial aid office and other entities in a position to provide material support to these students.
  • The creation of a staff position to support AB540 students has greatly improved these students’ ability to access information in a centralized location. However, many students remain unaware of this resource.
  • Mental health resources need to be developed for this population of students. Student activism has been one critical outlet for students to support their own well-being as well as for creating social change.
  • The writing workshop provided students with a safe space they found to be supportive and useful both personally and academically.

We therefore recommend:

  • UC Berkeley should continue to lead on this issue, maintaining support for Meng So’s position and for his office to continue to provide ongoing training for different campus units about AB540 issues, as well as for the newly opened Dreamers’ Resource Center and other staff and offices on campus who have been supporting undocumented students such as Student Development Offices and the Multicultural Community Center.
  • The university should make a proactive effort to ensure that Asian/Pacific Islander AB540 students have information about and access to the support services available on campus.
  • To decrease isolation, the university should support a peer mentorship program to help students develop and nurture community on campus, and help navigate campus systems.
  • The university should actively assist students with their legal options.
  • We need more targeted outreach and support services for potential undocumented transfer students. Campus staff should work collaboratively with counselors and faculty at the community colleges.
  • Alternative pedagogical spaces, like the writing workshop and the Teatro Lab at the Theater, Dance, & Performance Studies, should be supported to provide undocumented students with outlets where they can work through their challenges while also developing their academic skill sets.
  • The Tang Center & Counseling and Psychological Services need further trainings and should actively work to recruit and hire additional staff with expertise in assisting immigrant students, students of color, working-class students and other campus populations with similar backgrounds
  • The Career Center should develop services targeted towards the unique situation undocumented students face in the job market.
  • A mandatory training for campus faculty and staff will help create more consistent support for students across campus.
  • A resource guide tailored specifically to the AB540 students on the UC Berkeley campus should be done in hard copy and disseminated to all students, faculty, staff and administrators at Berkeley would be significantly helpful.
  • The university should actively support current and pending legislation, in particular the federal DREAM Act.
  • The Chancellor and UCPD work with the Berkeley Police Department must make the UC Berkeley campus and surrounding areas, a sanctuary campus. The university must uphold their responsibility of ensuring that campus is a safe place for ALL students including undocumented students and will not allow federal agencies, such as ICE, to come onto campus. A policy or MOU regarding dealing with AB 540 students and their safety/involvement at protests would be a good first step towards this end.

It Was All A Dream, 2015

The culmination of a long-term research and arts project, It Was All A Dream: Writings by Undocumented Youth at UC Berkeley includes essays, poetry, visual art, and findings from a research report on the campus climate for undocumented students.  The writing workshop that catalyzed this anthology was co-organized the Multicultural Community Center.