Support offered for undocumented students

Campus officials on Monday (Sept. 12) released the findings of Chancellor Birgeneau’s task force on undocumented students and announced plans to carry out the committee’s recommendations. They include hiring a staff point person to assist undocumented students, setting up a web page for these students to access critical information and connect with each other, and creating a plan to help educate the campus community about the undocumented student experience.

Gibor Basri, the campus’s vice chancellor for equity and inclusion and chair of the task force, will be assembling a standing committee to implement the 19 recommendations.

“We found that undocumented students are often socialized to be invisible – many don’t think it safe to share their status widely,” said Basri. “We want to provide them with a more supportive campus environment, making use of available assistance and resources. We’d like to encourage everyone to be fully aware of relevant policies and practices.”

The Chancellor’s Task Force on Undocumented Members of the On-Campus Community was commissioned by Birgeneau in fall 2010, after concerned staff and students voiced the need on campus to further assess and address the needs of this student population.

“It was great to have a diverse group of people from different pockets of campus work on such a critical issue,’ said Alejandro Jimenez, an ethnic studies major and member of the task force. “Undocumented students lack basic resources from the second they step on campus. A designated full time advocate will help prevent the impossible conditions that force affected students to drop-out.

“We hope the recommendations made by the committee are taken seriously and implemented with a sense of urgency. It will impact greatly all current and future undocumented members of the campus community.”

A few of the committee’s recommendations for undocumented students will be expanded to include low-income students as well. They include creating a lending library of textbooks and providing an up-to-date list of housing options.

The task force report will be placed on the campus’s equity and inclusion web site: http://vcei.berkeley.edu/

Chancellor Birgeneau has been a long-time advocate  for state and federal legislation that would open up broader financial aid opportunities to undocumented students and provide them with a path toward citizenship.