SACRAMENTO — Dozens of students representing all 10 University of California campuses gathered at the Capitol to address their concerns with their local legislators.
“My home town is at Coachella Valley,” Rubyn Olvera said.
In fact, it is the only place she has called home since her family moved here from Mexico when she was 2 years old. Now, in her 3rd year at UC Riverside, she said she is undocumented and unafraid.
“Having to validate your existence, it’s really something else,” Olvera said.
Monday, she joined dozens of her fellow UC students to lobby their local legislators to pass Senate Bill 54. The bill would prohibit state and local law enforcement from helping federal law enforcement in making immigration arrests.
Although UC President Janet Napolitano announced in January she will protect undocumented students at all UC Schools, some students say President Trump’s attitude toward immigrants still puts them at risk.
“There is tremendous concern that there isn’t going to be support for all people who are present, for all people who deserve to be here,” Ralph Washington Jr., president of the University of California Student Association, said.
Students said this event and protest is not about them. Many said it is for future students, or for kids who may even be afraid to apply to college.
“This year, there were a lot less applicant to the California Dream Act application. That just goes to show the fear that students have, like not wanting to put out their information on any kind of system,” Olvera said.
The California Dream Act is a system designed specifically for undocumented students, needing financial aid.
Another key issue these students hoped to bring to the forefront — budget cuts and tuition increases.
“We are not asking for a hand out. We are asking for a hand up,” UC Berkeley student Hezekiah Burton said.
The third-year student said he is tired of being labeled as “the exception” — the African-American kid from Oakland who “made it.”
“I’m so privileged to be in such a space, to pursue my higher learning, and pursue my higher goals in life. However, there are too many in the system that fall through the cracks,” Burton said.
Federal grants are dwindling. Governor Brown is proposing to cut state grants for middle class Californians. Plus, when Burton heard that UC Regents voted in January to raise tuition costs by almost $350 for the first time in seven years, he was devastated.
“Are we really setting up our students who were accepted into these institutions for success? Or are we allowing them to struggle so that at the end of four years, they can say they have a degree but they’re in piles of debt?”
Students continued to share their stories, and chanted at the Capitol Building, to appeal to their legislators, to invest in the next generation of California leaders.