State Senate, Assembly bills propose establishment of Dream Resource Centers

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A state Assembly member and a state senator each proposed bills in February to establish Dream Resource Centers at public K-12 schools and state colleges to support undocumented students in California.

AB 1366, proposed by Assemblymember Patty Lopez, would mandate community colleges and the California State University to establish Dream Resource Centers on each campus to provide undocumented students with information about financial aid and educational support services. SB 247, proposed by Sen. Ricardo Lara, D – Bell Gardens, would authorize the establishment of these centers at both the college level and in K-12 school districts.

The bills would not require the university to create such resource centers at every campus but would encourage their implementation.

Lourdes Jimenez, Lopez’s chief of staff, said Lopez is trying to “streamline” the current system of undocumented student information centers. Jimenez said campuses may have multiple undocumented student resource offices at different locations — meaning students may be missing out on the services available to them.

According to Jesse Melgar, communications director for Lara, the Dream Resource Centers will serve as a “one-stop shop” for undocumented students to receive information about financial aid.

“Not all high schools or school districts provide (these services),” Melgar said. “Often times they’re left on their own and don’t know what they qualify for.”

Aureo Mesquita, a UC Berkeley freshman and undocumented student, noted that because his high school didn’t offer any resources for students like him, he had to go online to find information regarding whether or not he qualified for financial aid.

Liliana Iglesias, an academic counselor and coordinator at UC Berkeley’s Undocumented Student Program, or USP, said that while there is a need for more Dream Resource Centers in California, the university is “a step ahead” in terms of providing support to undocumented students. There are currently nine undocumented student centers at various UC campuses.

USP, in conjunction with the Haas Dreamers Resource Center, offers financial aid counseling for undocumented students, provides legal services to students through the International Human Rights Law Clinic and creates a space for students to get a “sense of community,” Iglesias said.

Grace Kim, a campus freshman and undocumented student, said that while the two leading USP staff members are “highly distinguished and qualified,” they can’t represent all undocumented students at UC Berkeley.

“What I really hope to see is that Dream Resource Centers will be able to adequately provide the information and services the bills (propose),” Kim said.

While the two bills were proposed independently, Melgar said the two legislators are “looking forward to working together” on the bills.

Contact Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @ayoonhendricks.