December 2, 2021

CD12 Council Member John Lee Unveils Fund For DACA Students At CSUN

Council Member John Lee announced a new fund to support students at California State University, Northridge who may not have documentation.

Los Angeles Council Member John Lee announced a fund to support students without documentation at the California State University, Northridge on Monday.

The program will offer funding for students to renew their status in the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

The DACA program, started in 2012 by former President Barack Obama, allows individuals who were brought to the United States as children without documentation to apply for a two-year visa, CNN reported. The renewable visa protects such people from deportation and allows them to obtain legal employment.

The cost of renewing DACA is $495, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and DACA renewal is required every two years.

The fund includes a $150,000 grant from The Change Reaction, a Los Angeles-based group of donors that partners with nonprofits and cultural institutions to support local activism and outreach.

The fund will have a significant effect on undocumented CSUN students, said Daniela Barcenas, manager of the DREAM Center at CSUN, which offers help and resources to students without documentation.

"The impact [of this fund] is huge. ... There's always a large financial burden on [such] students as a whole," Barcenas said.

Students who are in the country without legal permission, whether they currently benefit from DACA or not, consistently struggle to make the $495 initial and renewal payments for a multitude of reasons. Many such students don't have access to financial help, work part-time to accommodate their school schedules, or work campus jobs for relatively low pay, Barcenas said.

The pandemic also made it more difficult for many such students whose labor-intensive jobs mostly halted early in the pandemic.

The DREAM Center is preparing applications for the funding, which will be simple, Barcenas said. Applicants will have to prove they are currently enrolled at CSUN and that they have set up a meeting with school-provided legal counsel.

"I definitely do think it's a step in the right direction. It is going to help so many students — but there's obviously always other areas that students need help in, especially as we're starting to transition to be back in person," Barcenas said.

In the future, Barcenas would like to see additional support for students who don't benefit from DACA, she said. This is especially important given recent political challenges to the federal program and a halt on new enrollment that began in July.

In recent years, most CSUN students without documentation haven't been able to receive DACA benefits even though they qualify, Barcenas said.

Students who apply for DACA for the first time also have significant trouble meeting the $495 application fee because they are not legally able to work in the United States, Barcenas said.

"Although this is huge, and this is going to benefit so many of our students here on campus, I think it's always good for us to always keep in mind fully undocumented individuals and constantly make sure that we're making pathways for them as well," Barcenas said.

The Change Reaction partnered with the Coalition for Humane Immigration Rights to pay for 2,000 students' DACA fees, according to the organization's website. The coalition advocates for immigrant and refugee rights with legal services, education, and community organizing.

"DACA is definitely a 'Band-Aid' on a larger issue of immigration, a broken immigration system. so regardless of [whether] DACA is accepting new applications or not, we always need to find ways to help out fully undocumented people navigate higher ed and help them be successful in earning their degrees," Barcenas said.

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