Above: Former Governing board president Lee McDougal and new president Katie Roberts Thu. Dec. 15. Photo by Duane Tkatch.
By Daniel Steele
Members of the Dreamers Club and faculty urged the college’s governing board Thursday to establish a Dreamers Resource Center, which would give undocumented students a safe place for financial and legal information they need to attend Chaffey.
This need arises from Governor Brown’s veto of the law which would have designated a campus liaison officer for Dreamers in Calif. public colleges. Instead, undocumented students have the Dreamers Club as their only resource on campus.
“Having a Dreamers Center here would be very important,” said Mayra Ramirez, a Dreamers Club member. “It’s only fair that we feel as safe and comfortable as everyone else.”
There are approximately 1,100 undocumented students at Chaffey with special financial and legal needs not shared by those with U.S. citizenship, and it is hard for them to ask for help without the fear that comes with their immigration status.
“A lot of (undocumented students) are afraid to ask questions,” said the president of the Dreamers Club, Jazmin Bravo, 21, to members of the board. “We need to make sure that we have a safe space for them to go and feel comfortable to ask certain questions.”
The Dreamers Club, along with English and Journalism coordinator Neil Watkins, created a petition in support for the Dreamers Resource Center and presented it to the board. The petition received over 355 signatures in two weeks from students, staff, faculty and community members. Students and faculty at the meeting wore blue in solidarity for making the college a sanctuary campus for undocumented students.
Jon Ausabel, English professor and president of The Chaffey College Faculty Association, also gave a joint statement to the board.
An excerpt from the statement says, “Our college must be a safe place for all, regardless of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, income, citizenship status, and any other categorization used to divide.”
Members of the board responded after the students and faculty speeches.
“I’d like to thank everyone for sharing their concerns,” said Lee McDougal, now former president of the governing board. “They did not fall on deaf ears.”
Board member Gary Ovitt said, “I enjoyed hearing from the Dreamers who are willing to come forward and share their desire to have a center here on campus. Hopefully we’re able to provide something along those lines where they can feel safe.”
Mt. SAC, San Bernardino Valley College, University of Calif. Riverside and many Calif. State colleges such as Cal State Fullerton and Cal State LA already have Dreamers Centers. Bravo said in addition to providing necessary information, a resource center on campus would be important to build a community and help those who have citizenship status understand what undocumented students are going through.
“It’s important that (undocumented students) feel supported, because they often feel alone,” said Bravo. “But they’re not. There are so many undocumented students just like them who are going through the same things.”
The governing board will reconvene on January 26 next year.