California State University, Fullerton

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Learning About Advocacy

Sept. 29, 2012

Gabriel Sandoval

Gabriel Sandoval

About 500 people converged on Cal State Fullerton Sept. 28 to attend the all-day AB 540 and Undocumented Conference, where they learned about advocating for AB 540 and undocumented students.

CSUF President Mildred García welcomed attendees to the event, saying: “You're in for a wonderful day. I don't need to tell you how important this topic is not only for the state of California but for this nation. We are the warriors who must fight for these students. ... Ask questions, be informed.”

Organized by CSUF’s AB 540 Taskforce, whose members include faculty and staff members and students who meet regularly to find ways to improve students’ educational experiences on campus, the conference goal was to inform and educate about the issues faced by AB 540 and undocumented students and about current legislation affecting them.

“Being against immigrants is not an option any more,” said CSUF alumnus Carlos Amador, who earned a bachelor’s degree in human services in 2008. He was one of three keynote speakers.

Amador, project coordinator of UCLA’s Dream Resource Center, moved to the United States with his family when he was 14. He lived as an undocumented student for 13 years before recently receiving conditional permanent residency status. He said that when he was an undocumented undergraduate and graduate student, he was unable to apply for financial aid and lived in fear of deportation. But, once he learned his rights and got involved in the national campaign to pass the federal Dream Act — legislation that would give legal status to certain undocumented immigrants — he said he lost his shame and wants others to feel unashamed as well.

Elena Macías, special assistant to Cal State Long Beach President F. King Alexander, who moderated a panel discussion featuring undocumented students, told the audience of mostly educators to “learn what's going on with your students. ... Learn about AB 540 [the law that allows California to grant in-state tuition fees to any college student, including undocumented students, who meet certain requirements] and help as many kids as you can.”

Gabriel Sandoval, senior adviser and director of policy for the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, explained President Barack Obama’s “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals,” a program allowing some young undocumented immigrants to remain in the U.S. and work legally for two years.

“Whether we arrived yesterday or several generations ago, the immigrant experience is part of the American experience. It is part of who we are as a people, as a country,” said Sandoval, whose family immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico in the 1950s. “Education is the civil rights issue of our nation today. ... The cause of the dreamer is our collective cause.”

Attendees said they were inspired by the speakers and learned how to be supportive advocates for undocumented students, said Elizabeth Muñoz, a CSUF Career Center education, health and nonprofit industry specialist and a conference organizer.

Besides keynote addresses, a number of workshops were offered and immigration attorney and CNN radio host Rosa Elena Sahagún gave advice about the “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.” Other workshops included discussions on AB 540 history, funding for undocumented students and life after college.

The second AB 540 and Undocumented Conference will take place Oct. 4, 2013, said Kandy Mink Salas, associate vice president for student affairs and an AB 540 Taskforce member.

”We are so pleased that we had such a wonderful turnout from a wide variety of communities, including attendees from higher education, K-12, the community and many members of the Cal State Fullerton campus,” she said. “I believe we achieved and exceeded our goals of providing information, resources and best practices for working with AB 540 and undocumented students. Serving this community is so important, as many times, undocumented students are not aware of their educational opportunities and the higher education community has an obligation to provide guidance and support. I am so proud of the conference planning team and proud of the service we provided in organizing the conference.”

For those who missed the conference, Mink Salas said the speakers’ Powerpoint presentations soon will be available online.

For more information about AB 540 resources on campus, visit the AB 540 online resource guide.

By: Mimi Ko Cruz, 657-278-7586

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