Organizations for undocumented students

Mariah Arviso, Digital Editor

Bakersfield College held a virtual Q&A to allow panelists to discuss the different programs and resources that undocumented students and community members can utilize. The forum was held on Oct. 23.
Some of the panelists included Marcela Gamino, Rosa Lopez, and Ivan Gonzales. Organizations that attended were the California Dream Network, Greater Bakersfield Legal Assistance, and the Youth News Education Foundation.
These organizations provide research and help educate immigrants on their rights regardless of immigration status and how to protect themselves if found in police custody.
“We provide a lot of know your rights information when it comes to interacting with law enforcement. What to do when you get pulled over and kind of where to report incidents or concerns of abuse of power,” said, Rosa Lopez, policy advocate and organizer with the ACLU office in Southern California
ACLU is a national organization that defends civil liberties under the U.S. Constitution. In Bakersfield, their main focus is immigration rights and law enforcement accountability.
The Youth News Education Foundation provides EB540 students, or undocumented students, with information about the Dream Act. The organization also helps high school seniors with their financial aid applications. Some of these students can even be hired to monitor the financial aid workshops to ensure that the students are paying attention. Applications are closed due to COVID-19.
During the summer, they open camps for high school students to join. One of the camps is in Santa Barbara which is called the STEM Pre-College Camp.
“We invite different speakers in the STEM field that already graduated or have their Ph.D. We also created a document on our website called “Undock Your Youth.” It’s specifically for AV540 students and undocumented students [with] SB68,” Gonzales said. “It gives you the definition of AB540, who is eligible, and how to submit the form for step by step instructions.”
Greater Bakersfield Legal Assistance is the local legal aid office for Kern County. This organization provides counseling or assistance to “eligible community members, in Kern County, regarding access to health care or public benefits,” said Carmen, staff paralegal of Greater Bakersfield Legal Assistance.
This organization does not provide representation regarding criminal matters.
Some of the other services provided are for victims of domestic abuse, people being denied food stamps or government help, and assistance for the homeless.
They have two projects that are focused on any type of violations regarding civil rights when renting or buying a home. The two projects are called The Civil Rights Vulnerable Immigrants Project and the Fair Housing Law Project.
“If someone believes that they were not allowed to rent a place because of how they look, their income, or their ability or inability to speak English, they could always call us,” Carmen said. “With the Vulnerable Immigration Project, most of our clients are young adults that find themselves without any relatives in the United States. [Some of them] may be eligible for some type of immigration relief.”
Although most of these organizations and projects were created to benefit undocumented community members, some of the services are available to anyone who qualifies.