By Mario A. Cortez
As the future of comprehensive immigration and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program remains unclear, students enrolled in the DACA program, known as “Dreamers”, at Southwestern College will soon be able to receive aid tailored to their needs at a new center at the Chula Vista campus, inaugurated this Thursday, April 25.
The new Dreamer Center will be offering outreach, workshops, financial aid, meeting rooms, and legal assistance to DACA program beneficiaries. But for student Norma Vizcaino, a DACA recipient who will be staffing the center, the opening also represents the creation of a space where she can feel safe and welcome. “Often times we are taught to hide (our migratory status) and say nothing, so this place makes me feel like I can breathe,” she said.
The center was opened through a grant from from the California Campus Catalyst Fund, which provides funding for new college programs aimed at serving undocumented students. In addition to the creation of the center, the $125,000 sum awarded to Southwestern College will also finance a project specialist to develop programs and opportunities for on-campus DACA recipients. The opening and development of the center was coordinated by a campus-wide collaboration involving the college’s Financial Aid department, the Adelante Estudiante program, student group IDEAS, and the Southwestern College Foundation.
College Board President Roberto Alcantar said he and his peers were thrilled to cut the ribbon on the new center. More importantly, he stated the opening is the latest step in a series of actions the college has taken to better serve its Dreamer community.
“One of the resolutions our board approved was in support of (The California Values Act) and another one where we said we are not going to participate in a registry for students based on religion and legal status. We always want to reaffirm our support for dreamers,” he stated.
There are a little over 200 DACA beneficiaries enrolled at Southwestern College. Alcantar pointed out that the opening might encourage more Dreamers to disclose their legal status.
“A lot of students do not declare and we are hoping that we can get a more accurate number now. We know we have a high population, but many students don’t want that information getting out to public,” Alcantar pointed out. “Now that the center is open we are excited to see how many more students come forward.”
Southwestern College’s Dreamer Center is located in Room 426 of the main campus’ Academic Success Building.