UC Berkeley to allocate $800K for undocumented students’ needs, pending UCOP approval

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UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ has promised to establish a new space on campus for undocumented students by early March.

Christ made these promises Tuesday when she met with Luis Mora — a campus junior transfer who was detained by Border Patrol and held in custody for 2 1/2 weeks by Immigration and Customs Enforcement — to discuss efforts to address current concerns in undocumented student communities. Plans include the establishment of an undocumented student resource center as well as the allocation of $800,000 for the DACA Financial Gap, an initiative to cover financial needs of undocumented students under DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

The resources available to undocumented students on campus have been in the spotlight since Mora’s detainment, when campus immigration attorney Prerna Lal stated that they didn’t have an office on campus or rooms to meet with students.

“I could have talked to (Lal) about my situation and my family. … (Lal) would have told me about my situation and what I could have done. … I wouldn’t have been detained,” Mora said, reflecting on the lack of campus space for Lal. “Such spaces are crucial.”

Mora said he was particularly impressed by the initiative to allocate public space by next month. The campus’s “Undocuaction Plan” puts forward a timeline detailing the creation of an undocumented student resource center. The plan states that Undocumented Students Program Director Meng So will have a space in the César E. Chávez Student Center by early March.

Future plans involve repurposing campus buildings to accommodate a permanent community space. Mora says this space will go a long way toward properly representing the student population, as campus staff currently struggle resource-wise to aid their students because of a lack of space.

Another one of the university’s objectives is to construct a “sustainable financial strategy,” which will address the financial needs of undocumented students losing their DACA status. The current plan proposes an $800,000 allocation for one semester of the 2018-19 academic year.

Should the proposal receive approval from the UC Office of the President, $2,500 in basic needs grants will be set aside for students whose DACA status has expired. An additional $1,500 will go toward basic needs grants for all other students, and $50,000 will be set aside as a discretionary grant for “special cases.”

While Mora said a better way to support the students would be through creating on-campus opportunities for them to work, he acknowledged the program as generous and the best possible solution given legal restraints. Mora also expressed his gratitude toward the current administration and UC Berkeley community for properly representing the undocumented community at Berkeley.

“I really think it’s a very generous program, but there are other ways that it could be improved to be more fair for everyone,” Mora said. “Nothing can be achieved at once. … The little impacts, the little victories are going to eventually take us to the path that we all want to be on.”

Contact Elena Aguirre at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @eaguirreDC.