Latina/o Faculty Association asks administration to support Undocumented Student Program

Ariel Hayat/Senior Staff

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The campus Latina/o Faculty Association sent a letter Monday to Chancellor Nicholas Dirks calling for the administration to better support undocumented students in the aftermath of the presidential election.

In the letter, members of the Latina/o Faculty Association requested that Dirks declare UC Berkeley a sanctuary campus, which would restrict UCPD from cooperating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers to enforce deportation efforts. They also asked Dirks to provide emergency funding for the Undocumented Student Program, which, according to the letter, is is not equipped to deal with the increased student need for psychological and legal assistance after the election.

President-elect Donald Trump has pledged to deport millions of undocumented immigrants.

“(The letter is) simply taking all of the threats of the new Trump administration seriously,” said Kurt Organista, campus professor of social welfare. “I think we need to take them seriously and we need to figure out how to best protect and support undocumented students locally.”

On Nov. 23, Dirks sent a campuswide email reaffirming the campus administration’s dedication to maintaining an inclusive and supportive environment for all undocumented students. While Dirks called for private donations to the Undocumented Student Program, interim co-chair of the Latina/o Faculty Association Lisa García Bedolla said it is important that the campus administration also provide financial support for the program.

Establishing UC Berkeley as a sanctuary campus would provide a moral uplift for undocumented students, García Bedolla and other interim co-chair of the Latina/o Faculty Association Raúl Coronado said in the letter. Although the designation would represent a significant symbolic statement, Organista said, it might also come with consequences.

“In the spirit of states rights, could we still maintain all of the legal supports that are in place for undocumented students?” Organista said. “Trump would coerce us by holding federal funding for the state. … On a statewide level it could be very consequential.”

There is currently one legal consultant and one psychological counselor on staff at the Undocumented Student Program, which, according to the letter, is not a sufficient amount of resources in place to support the undocumented student body’s legal, academic and mental health needs in the wake of Trump’s election.

ASUC Senator and undocumented student Benyamin Yusof said that while he believes it is important to maintain a counseling staff, money allocated for undocumented students would be best used for funding grants and financial aid.

“Not all students qualify for AB540 and DACA. … Given many undocumented students’ inability to fund their education, I think that most of that should be allocated to financial aid,” Yusof said. “Psychological and legal services are important, but students can’t access those if they cannot afford to attend the school.”

Tuesday morning, UC President Janet Napolitano, California State University Chancellor Timothy White and California Community Colleges Chancellor-Designate Eloy Oritz Oakley sent a letter to Trump imploring him to not repeal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACAan executive action issued by President Barack Obama in 2012 which allows undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. under the age of 16 to apply for a permit to live and work in the country legally for two years if they meet other specific conditions.

“(Imagine) if what you’re being punished for is being brought here by your parent (and) the punishment is to be forced into a country you don’t know,” García Bedolla said. “The punishment is so far, so disproportionate to the violation. … I think it’s important to be mindful of what the stakes are.”

Although Dirks has not responded directly to the letter, campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof said he strongly supports the undocumented student community.

 

Contact Sakura Cannestra at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @SakuCannestra.

Correction(s):
A previous version of this article misspelled the last name of Lisa García Bedolla.

A previous version of this article misquoted Lisa García Bedolla as referring to undocumented immigration as a crime. In fact, she referred to it as a violation.