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UCLA-sponsored report shows shortcomings in UC’s support of undocumented students

The UCLA Labor Center, in partnership with the UCLA Dream Resource Center and the Undocumented Student-Led Network, sponsored a student-led report on undocumented student experiences. (Chelsea Rose Westman/Daily Bruin staff)

By Jessica Gonzalez

March 10, 2022 5:05 p.m.

This post was updated March 14 at 9:14 p.m.

Undocumented students at University of California campuses lack resources and proper funding, according to a recent student-led report.

The UCLA Labor Center and the UCLA Dream Resource Center collaborated with the Undocumented Student-Led Network to create the “Resource Accessibility Across the University of California Campuses Through Undocumented Students’ Experiences” report, which was published Feb. 18.

The report detailed some undocumented students’ experiences on their respective UC campuses, including difficulties accessing resources such as specialized research programs and graduate student services as well as funding for these resources. Undocumented students also need better marketed and funded financial aid services, physical spaces for resource centers and specialized academic counseling, according to the report.

Alondra Avalos Padilla, one of the co-authors of the report, said the lack of outreach to and visibility of undocumented student resources is one of the key findings the project uncovered through focus groups held with undocumented UC students.

However, Avalos Padilla also said the lack of outreach may be a result of many undocumented student programs being in need of staffing or funds to accommodate an influx of students seeking their aid.

“Granted, we do acknowledge that it has to do with also limited capacity on the undocumented student program services. So we think that the university in itself should also be trying to make an effort, not just all of this relegated to one specific department,” Avalos Padilla said.

She added that the existence of small staffs at each undocumented student center can make it hard to serve the large student population.

“A lot of what happens is undocumented students reach out to certain staff on campus, and everything kind of gets thrown to the undocumented student programs, and that makes it really difficult when a lot of these services are working with maybe one or two professional staff,” Avalos Padilla said.

The report also discussed the pandemic’s impact on existing accessibility issues with undocumented student centers, such as delayed email responses and difficulties with Zoom meetings.

Avalos Padilla said the COVID-19 pandemic has also negatively affected resource visibility for incoming undocumented students who are new and unaware of campus resources available to them.

“I definitely think something to kind of think about is the issue of outreach efforts, which were highly impacted also during the pandemic,” Avalos Padilla said.

Avalos Padilla said varying levels of funding at each campus can also affect resource availability for undocumented students.

Ana Sandoval Contreras, a co-author of the report, said resource centers’ funding needs to be improved because their allocated budgets will expire soon. She added this is especially troubling because many of the UC’s undocumented student resources, such as meal vouchers and certain grants, are paid for with funding from the UC Office of the President.

As a result, the report suggests increased funding, the involvement of undocumented students in designing support systems, better promotion of resources, and the allocation of more intern and fellowship opportunities specifically for undocumented students.

Silvia Vazquez, the communications specialist for the UCLA Dream Resource Center, also said she faced obstacles promoting the report because it was written by undergraduate students.

“It is very difficult to pitch and for sometimes for outlets to take publications from students seriously,” Vazquez said.

Moreover, Vazquez added that the center faced difficulties promoting the report via Zoom and other online outlets compared to an in-person gathering.

Sandoval Contreras said the UC can use the report and its recommendations to advocate for practices that better support undocumented students.

“I feel like any student or undocumented student leader or even a school can push for their campuses … to look at these recommendations,” Sandoval Contreras said.

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Jessica Gonzalez
Gonzalez is a national news and higher education contributor. She is a first-year transfer student at UCLA majoring in political science and minoring in Chicana/o and Central American studies.
Gonzalez is a national news and higher education contributor. She is a first-year transfer student at UCLA majoring in political science and minoring in Chicana/o and Central American studies.
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