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Advocates Press for DREAM Act Support in California
Thursday, April 1, 2010
California educators, legislators, students and activists gathered in February to call for the passage of the federal DREAM Act to offer an effective, bipartisan solution to the obstacles faced by undocumented students across the United States.
The College Board’s Advocacy & Policy Center, along with the Latino, Black and Asian Pacific Islander legislative caucuses, hosted a summit at the California State Capitol on Feb. 3, drawing a crowd of about 130.
Every year, an estimated 65,000 undocumented students graduate from U.S. high schools and face significant barriers in continuing their education; California provides a model for providing in-state tuition for “AB 540” students. Advocates at the meeting called on the state’s leaders to support the federal legislation, which would open the door to college opportunity for these students.
Al Mijares, the College Board’s vice president for the Western Region, moderated the discussion, which featured legislators, higher education leaders, representatives of K–12 teachers and counselors. Members of the Western Association for College Admission Counseling (WACAC) executive board attended the summit, accompanied by a group of students who would be making legislative visits afterward. In addition, seven other California senators and assembly members stopped by to voice their support.
“It was wonderful to see so many students there,” said Mari Soliván, director of advocacy and government relations for the College Board. “Many of the speakers directed their remarks to them, encouraging them to keep fighting for their dream.”
Speakers included California Sen. Gilbert Cedillo, chair of the California Latino Legislative Caucus; Assemblyman Warren Furutani, chair of the Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus; Roy M. Perez, vice chair of the California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; Milton Gordon, president of California State University, Fullerton; Edward Hernandez, chancellor of Rancho Santiago Community College District; Susan Wilbur, director of undergraduate admissions for the University of California Office of the President; Kent Wong, director of the Center for Labor Research and Education at UCLA and vice president of the California Federation of Teachers; and Esther Hugo, counselor for Santa Monica College and past president of WACAC. Assembly members Kevin de León, Mike Eng, Paul Fong, Tom Ammiano and Sen. Curren Price also participated in the program.
The students’ stories were most compelling, Soliván said. One noted that although she had graduated from UCLA, she had never taken her diploma out of the envelope because she is not allowed to use it. Another — a fully credentialed teacher with a degree from Harvard — said she is looking for opportunities to teach abroad because she is not permitted to put her credentials to use in this country. Several students who attended the summit made connections with advocates and experts who offered them advice on how to move forward.
“Even in California, where there is widespread understanding about these educational issues, some of these students were not getting the help they need from their schools and counselors,” said Soliván.“There is a need for more advocacy on this issue and education for the people who are in a position to help undocumented students.”
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