The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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A.S. Senate rejects Dream Act resolution

An Associated Students Senate meeting became the platform for a heated debate on immigration between senators and students as a resolution to support legislation making financial aid available for undocumented students was denied.

SB1, also referred to as the California Dream Act, would allow California grant agencies to set up financial aid programs that’d be available for AB-540 students, college students who attended a California high school for three years and graduated with either a diploma or the equivalent, show documents produced by Dreams to Be Heard, an immigrant advocacy group, and the Movement of Chicano/a students of Aztlan (the native word for Central and parts of North and South America) or MEChA.

AB540 students are undocumented immigrants who are eligible to attend public institutions, such as community colleges, the University of California and California State University, without paying the $339 per unit out-of-state tuition fees.

These grants wouldn’t be competitive, meaning that residents and citizens wouldn’t be at risk of losing financial aid to undocumented students. The funding for the program would come from private entities, including banks and trustees, Social and Behavioral Science Sen. Nicole Andrea A. Umali said. Students attending the open forum meeting made it clear that the money wouldn’t be coming from taxpayers.

“Your financial aid will not be affected,” said Chicano/a studies major Lizbeth Mateo, 23, as she distributed documents outlining the legislation to the senators. Thirty-three percent of tuition fees go toward financial aid, fees that AB540 students also pay, but can’t receive because of their immigration status.

“They’re not going to hand them money. They have to apply for it,” Umali said. “These students are being affected because their parents weren’t responsible,” Umali said in regard to the AB540 students who’ve been in the country long enough time to apply for residency, but never did.

Umali apologized in case she offended anyone on the panel.

Chicano/a studies graduate student Johnny Ramirez gave an emotional speech in which he called on senators to stop what he called institutional racism at CSUN and vote to support the Dream Act.

“If A.S. doesn’t support this bill, it’s a racist reflection on this school,” Ramirez said as he criticized senators for talking to each other while students were addressing the board. “I’m getting a vibe that there’s people here that don’t want to be here.”

Lower Division Sen. Amanda Perry told other senators to vote for what their constituents wanted and not to give in to pressure from the panel.

“Don’t be afraid to look like a racist,” Perry said. “I know everyone in this senate and none of us are racists.”

After his speech during the board’s discussion of the bill, Ramirez began talking to other people in the panel, loud enough for A.S. President Adam Haverstock to ask him to carry his conversation outside.

Senators such as Sen. Aron Schlabra, who opposed the resolution, voiced opinions that their constituents were worried the increased amount of students that’d consequently attend California colleges would enroll in classrooms that are already filled to capacity.

Students on the panel told the senators of hardships they face as immigrants.

An 18-year-old MEChA delegate, who was himself an undocumented student, spoke of working 20 hours a week, attending classes, keeping up with friends and his girlfriend as well as commuting an hour to reach CSUN from Los Angeles.

Sen. Javier Roman also spoke of his experience as a member of an immigrant family from Guatemala, which had a difficult time becoming American citizens. Roman said he can see the situation from both sides of the argument.

Roman voted against the resolution.

“He’s gone through it, and he chooses to ignore it,” Chicano/a studies major Alma De Jesus, 24, said in regard to Roman’s vote.

A.S. Vice President Josh Hanson said approval of the resolution would “discredit people who’ve gone through the process,” such as Roman’s family.

“This discussion is narrow-minded,” Hanson said. “We need to open this up. It’s about immigration.”

The panel’s explanation of the Dream Act, which was echoed by several senators, including Humanities Sen.Amanda Lynch, Lower Division II Sen. Vianney Moran and Umali, was that AB540 students, totaling 314 at CSUN, would be students attending classes on campus either way. The senators said the Dream Act would only help them with financial hardships they face while attending classes.

Perry said she has to work three jobs to attend CSUN.

“It’s not impossible to go to school without financial aid,” Perry said, adding that more graduates means more competition for jobs after college.

Lynch responded that more competition is good for the economy because the most qualified person will earn the job for which they’re applying.

Schlabra said the Dream Act doesn’t mean that undocumented students will receive citizenship status, denying them the ability to attain jobs. Schlabra added he doesn’t want his children to have 300 people in their classes in the future due to an influx of students.

After the meeting adjourned, De Jesus told other members of the panel that she understands Perry’s plight of working three jobs to go to school, but questioned the types of jobs Perry is paid for, referring to immigrants who work in sweatshops to illustrate the laborious work they go through to sustain themselves.

The President of the American-Indian Student Association Lidia Xochitl Rivas, 29, refered to Hanson’s opinion that the discussion was about immigration.

“If this is about immigration, we could go back to the Native Americans and see what immigration is about,” Rivas said.

Haverstock, Umali and Moran waited after the meeting to hear the panel’s grievances. Several of the panel members’ eyes welled with tears as they talked about how discouraging the senate’s vote was.

“It’s frustrating,” Trujillo said as he fought back tears. “We’re underrepresented. It’s a struggle.”

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