Oscar Garcia, an undocumented student whose parents brought him from Mexico to the United States, told a crowd Monday that the Senate’s failure in December to pass the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act might mean he has to leave the school he loves, since he is not eligible for federal financial aid.
“It would break my heart to leave the Trojans, but it’s an inevitability sometimes,” Garcia said. “Sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to do.”
The Latino Student Assembly hosted a panel Monday titled, “America: Where Dreams are Voted On” at the Ronald Tutor Campus Center to inform audience members of the struggles undocumented Californian students could have escaped with the passage of the DREAM Act, which would have provided a pathway to citizenship for students whose parents are illegal immigrants.
“Being an undocumented student means a lot of things. I really wanted to travel abroad, but I couldn’t do that — can’t do that,” said Sofia Campos, an undocumented immigrant and co-chair of the Improving Dreams, Equality, Access and Success group at UCLA.
Besides being unable to afford university housing and having to commute two hours to school every day, Campos finds it nearly impossible to receive a college education.
“Our financial means are really limited,” Campos said. “We cannot receive federal aid, state aid and most scholarships are unavailable to us.”
Victor Narro, a professor of law at UCLA, said there are many misconceptions about undocumented students.
“We hear misinformation about the nature of the contribution of the immigrant,” Narro said.
Felix Gutierrez, a journalism professor at the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, said employment is the key. He noted that, even if passed the DREAM Act might not have done enough.
“Unless you twin the DREAM Act with employment opportunities, it will not fufill its potential and people will not contribute to society,” Gutierrez said.
Students and professors came out of the meeting with positive feelings.
“I feel that I am really blessed and I really want to help keep making changes,” said Stephanie Barajas, a freshman majoring in theatre.
For supporters who feel similarly, Campos has helped promote the California DREAM Act, an initiative that does not address legalization but could help to provide deserving students with access to institutional aid.
“This is something we do believe is possible now,” Campos said. “The governor has come out and supported it, we just need to make sure we get the petitions to his desk and we hold him accountable to sign the bill.”
An earlier publication of this article misidentified Oscar Garcia, a sophomore from Mexico. The Daily Trojan regrets the error and has corrected the text above to reflect the accurate information.