Allan Hancock College is taking multiple steps to reach out to its nearly 400 undocumented immigrant students to let them know the college remains focused on their academic success.
As part of Unity Week, Hancock will hold a workshop entitled “AB540 – We Stand with You” on Friday, Dec. 2, from 9 to 10:30 a.m. in the Student Center, Room A-103, to address the fears and concerns of AB540 and DREAM Act students. AB540 refers to a 2001 California Assembly bill that allows certain undocumented students to pay in-state tuition fees at any UC, CSU or California community college if they attended a California high school. The DREAM Act refers to a federal law that grants legal status to certain undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children.
The AB540 workshop will help students learn what college resources are available to them, including types of financial aid and scholarship options. The workshop will also help undocumented students, many who are afraid to have their names recorded on program registrations or applications, know what their rights are under the California government and the United States Constitution.
“When students are in the shadows or feel disconnected, they are not nearly as successful,” said Juanita Tuan, counselor and member of the college’s AB540 working group. “At Hancock, we believe in student success regardless of gender, documentation, color, etc. Students are students and we want them all to succeed.”
The campaign rhetoric from Donald Trump caused many students’ to have anxiety and fear for their future and their families. The college sent an email in English and Spanish to all students to address their concerns as a result of the presidential election.
“No student should forego their dreams, nor the opportunities to pursue their academic goals, whether it is to learn English, get their GED, learn new vocational skills or transfer to a credit program,” the message read. “No matter what, Allan Hancock College will remain committed to its mission to provide quality educational opportunities to all our students; opportunities that enhance student learning and the creative, intellectual, cultural and economic vitality of our very diverse community.”
“The support that Hancock has given to us has been amazing,” said “Ellie,” a Hancock DREAM Act student majoring in biochemistry, who asked to remain anonymous as a precaution. “We are a minority at the college, so we can sometimes feel like we don’t have a voice, but knowing that we have the support of the college and of superintendent/president Kevin Walthers is great.”
“Ellie” came to Santa Maria as a young teenager more than 10 years ago, and explained that even though she is not personally afraid of deportation or losing her status as a student, the fears in the community are real.
“After the election so much shock and fear was going through our minds. Personally, I thought, ‘What if my husband loses his work permit? What if my parents lose their jobs? Would I still be able to graduate?’” she said. “There’s just so much uncertainty right now.”
Although Unity Week and the AB540 “We Stand with You” events were planned before Election Day, organizers of the event feel that it’s even more important now for students to become informed and supported.
“We understand there is a lot of uncertainty and fear about the future,” said Tuan. “We want to let these students know that they have a safe place here, and that we are their advocates.”
Unity Week runs from Dec. 2-7. In addition to “AB540-We Stand with You,” other activities include “You’re Safe with Us! – Safety Pin Movement” on Monday, Dec. 5, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the Student Center, and “Talk About It,” an open forum on finding common ground, which takes place on Wednesday, Dec. 7, from 12-1:30 p.m.