CSU lends a helping hand to undocumented students

CSU lends a helping hand to undocumented students

by Sergio Mercado

CI is now proud to offer free direct immigration legal services to its students, staff and faculty. Attorneys and paralegals are available by appointment through CI’s Multicultural Dream Center, and they will be providing assistance with legal forms, DACA renewals and general consultations.

“This is an initiative brought on by the CSU Chancellor’s office,” explained Natalie Johnson, M.Ed. and Coordinator of Underrepresented Student Initiatives at CI. Legal assistance for any type of immigration concern are coming to all CSU campuses. Each CSU campus will be working in conjunction with local organizations, determined by their region. Since CI is so close to Los Angeles, they will be working with the Central American Resource Center (CARECEN), a Los Angeles based organization focused on guiding people through the immigration system and leading community activism.

While it may seem like an odd idea to offer immigration services at a university, it only makes sense. To many undocumented people, searching for an attorney for support can be an incredibly daunting process. By bringing attorneys to the school, CI hopes to alleviate the stress of searching for one. “The fact that they’re going to be here makes it an accessible service so that (students) don’t have to go out into the community,” said Johnson. “Oftentimes that requires a lot of research into who can specifically work with undocumented students and who is trustworthy.” Even if just for information or assistance through the immigration system, the benefit of an accessible attorney is undeniable.

Providing attorneys at CI also ensures that students can work with experts who are knowledgeable about the specific issues of being an undocumented student. Concerns about immigration may vary from person to person, but having a professional who is familiar with working with undocumented students in particular helps ensure that students have access to someone apt to help.

Most importantly, these services are being provided free of charge thanks to funding from the California Department of Social Services (CDSS). “Many times, undocumented students have the struggles of just financial issues in general. A lot of times undocumented people have to budget in money and fees for attorneys,” Johnson pointed out. “Undocumented students oftentimes are not able to work in the United States.”

By offering this service for free, CI is removing another common barrier that prevents undocumented people from finding the legal support they need, and it seems this service is here to stay. CDSS has awarded recurring funds to this program in the 2019-2020 budget for all CSU campuses. “The funding that the CSU Chancellor’s office got was for, I believe, four years…We’re trying to make sure this becomes a stable resource for students for upcoming years,” said Johnson.

In addition to immigration services, legal services will also be hosting several workshops throughout the semester regarding issues or concerns undocumented students may face. “It’s an event to welcome everyone who wants to be educated about these different topics.” The first of these workshops will be on Oct. 14 and will cover confidentiality.

Services are offered to all students, staff, faculty and auxiliary faculty regardless of citizenship status. While primarily focused on working with undocumented persons, these services are also open to students who have any other immigration issues or concerns in regard to things like visas. Appointments with an attorney can be made online at go.oncehub.com/ImmigrationLegalServices. Additional information can be found at the Multicultural Dream Center, found in Bell Tower, Room 1530.

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