California State University, Fullerton

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Advocating for AB 540 and Undocumented Students

Janette L. Hyder Heads Task Force Addressing Student Needs

Sept. 26, 2012

In her role as coordinator of the Student Affairs Division scholarship and Links Mentoring programs and an Educational Opportunity Program counselor at Cal State Fullerton, Janette L. Hyder learns what obstacles AB 540 and undocumented students face in higher education. Her goal is to remove those barriers.
 
“These students are like any other students, and we don’t want them to feel unwelcome or neglected,” Hyder said. “So, we offer support through guidance and advocacy.”
 
Hyder chairs the campus AB 540 Taskforce, whose members authored a 2008 report on undocumented and AB 540 students in an effort to identify ways to improve campus services. AB 540 is the law that allows California to grant in-state tuition fees to any college student, including undocumented students, who meet certain requirements.
 
Hyder; Elizabeth Muñoz, a Career Center education, health and nonprofit industry specialist; and Leo Cota, director of the Upward Bound Program, are organizing the Sept. 28 AB 540 Conference on the federal and state Dream Act, immigration laws and student rights.
 
A CSUF alumna, Hyder earned a bachelor's degree in ethnic studies and human services in 1997 and a master's degree in counseling in 2000. She recently answered questions about CSUF’s role regarding undocumented and AB 540 students.

Q: Why should AB 540 and undocumented students be offered support services?

Undocumented students often feel fearful and alone and rely on their college campus to serve as a second home. Similar to many underrepresented populations, AB 540 and undocumented students expect their campus to be a safe haven for the pursuit of their educational goals. For more than 20 years, an informal network of Cal State Fullerton faculty and staff members and student organizations have worked to provide emotional and academic support. ... CSUF needs to remain in the forefront and continue to advocate for access to higher education and for the economic growth and development of all students, regardless of immigration status.

Q: What are the requirements students must meet to claim AB 540 status?

Students must have attended a California high school for three or more years; have graduated from a California high school or attained an equivalent diploma, such as a GED; be enrolled or registered as an entering student at an accredited institution of higher education in California; and, if they are undocumented, file an affidavit required by higher education institutions stating that they will apply for legal residency as soon as possible.

Q: How can CSUF faculty and staff members support the students?

Through awareness about their needs and obstacles. For example, they are not eligible to apply for public financial aid, but there are some private scholarships available that we can point them to. Regardless of what people’s opinions are, these are students, most from low-income families, who need to succeed like everybody else. We have to recognize that AB 540 is a California law, and CSUF has a responsibility to provide information and be supportive. The AB 540 Taskforce is developing a two-part training for all faculty and staff who want to take part and become an AB 540 ally. In the training sessions, we will provide information on the laws and campus procedures.

Q: Who makes up the task force and what else is it doing?

The task force includes faculty and staff members and students who meet regularly to find ways to improve students’ educational experiences on campus. Besides developing the training sessions and sponsoring the conference, we are working on the recommendations made in our 2008 report, which include creating a safe zone symbol and program — similar to the university’s SafeSpace program for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students — offering an opportunity to faculty and staff to become more familiar with issues facing AB 540 and undocumented students and better understand the student perspective. Other recommendations include: working collaboratively with the campus police to review their policies and procedures and to create sensitivity training; developing clearinghouses on campus where students can get more information regarding legislation; and developing a cadre of trained professionals on campus who can assist AB 540 students.

For more information, visit the AB 540 online resource guide.

By: Mimi Ko Cruz, 657-278-7586

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