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Education

Cal State Northridge Will Pay To Renew Students' DACA Permits

Five people stand in a courtyard. A male student in a beret stands behind several microphones and a podium and with a sign on its front that spells C-S-U-N.
"I have two jobs and still live paycheck to paycheck," said Jesus Villegas Martinez, a DACA recipient and student at CSUN.
(Julia Barajas
/
LAist)
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In July, a federal district judge ruled against Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a program that grants temporary reprieve from deportation and work permits to a select group of undocumented people who were brought to the U.S. as children.

As a result, the federal government cannot accept any new applicants, but those who were previously granted DACA can apply to renew those protections.

DACA recipients must reapply every two years. And each time they do, they have to fork over $495. This expense can pose a real challenge for students already grappling with the cost of tuition, housing and books.

To help them stay in school, Cal State Northridge has created an “angel fund," which will pay for hundreds of DACA renewals.

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The fund was announced at a press conference in the student union on Monday. At the event, Los Angeles City Councilmember John Lee, who represents the university’s district, said the fund was created through a $150,000 grant from The Change Reaction, a charitable foundation focused on “direct giving.”

“Hopes and dreams are only as real as the resources a person has to pursue [them]," said Wade Trimmer, the nonprofit’s president, in his remarks.

Providing Financial And Moral Support

July’s court ruling left hundreds of thousands of people in a state of uncertainty, including those enrolled in college. The Department of Homeland Security, now under the Biden administration, is trying to reestablish the program with proposed changes.

This proposal elicited thousands of comments online, along with a letter from UC leaders calling for reduced application fees or needs-based fee waivers. Advocates also want to see an expansion of the program's eligibility criteria.

Daniela Barcenas, who manages the Dream Center at Cal State Northridge, said there are at least 1,200 undocumented students at the university. “But given everything that’s been going on politically,” she added, many incoming students do not qualify for DACA.

Financial stress can keep students from accomplishing their goals, said Karen Castillo, an undocumented student who recently transferred to Cal State Northridge.

“My time at Los Angeles Valley Community College was a little bit longer than I had anticipated,” she said, “but that came with having to juggle two jobs in order to make ends meet and then still be a full-time student."

Castillo, who is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in sociology, now works at the university’s Dream Center, where she helps other undocumented students and mixed status families build community and access resources.

California is home to the country’s largest undocumented college student population, estimated at just over 94,000. And though the pandemic wreaked havoc on many students’ lives, financial aid applications have plummeted among undocumented students, a sign that many of them may have canceled their higher education plans.

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Ervin Rendon, a psychology major who also works at the Dream Center, hopes the DACA renewal fund will help reverse this trend.

“The years under President Trump were very hard,” he said. “A lot of undocumented students are very hesitant to even talk about their [immigration] status. Maybe this can make them see that there are a lot of people on campus who want to help.”

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