Monday, March 23, 2009

AB-540 Ally Training

Mojad@s Anónim@s:
"Leticia del Rio Bravo"

Last Friday, March 13th, several faculty and staff from California State University, Long Beach attended the campus’ second AB-540 Ally Training.

Passed in 2001, Assembly Bill 540 allows non-residents to pay in-state tuition as long as they meet a few requirements. These requirements include having attended a California high school for three or more years, graduating from a high school or attaining a GED, and being accepted into a California college or university. Undocumented students who fulfilled these requirements were exempt from paying out-of-state tuition. Upon acceptance to a university, these students file an affidavit stating that they qualify for Assembly Bill 540 and will apply for residency as soon as they are able. The passage of Assembly Bill 540 was only the beginning.

After being accepted into a university many students maneuvered through the system undetected and unnoticed. It is not hard to see why many students did not speak out about their situation. Maneuvering under the radar comes with some consequences, though. If people don’t know you or know about you, how can they help you meet your needs? That is the problem that we undocumented studentscontinue to face, and until now we did not have enough resources to reach out the faculty. More importantly, we did not have security.

After the passage of AB-540, some years later, countless organizations on different university campuses have emerged. There is an entire network of support groups for AB-540 students on most colleges and universities. Some of these groups include: IDEAS (Improving Dreams, Equality, Access and Success) from UCLA, Voces del Mañana from Glendale Community College, and FUEL (Future Underrepresented Educated Leaders) here at CSULB. Yes, there is an AB-540 support group at CSULB as well.

Established in Spring 2007, FUEL members have been involved in several high school outreaches, fundraisers, and immigration forums. In weekly meetings, FUEL members often discussed the frustration with the faculty and staff on campus; students felt afraid to approach them regarding their "situation." They felt frustrated at the insensitivity received or they felt afraid of disclosing information to the wrong staff. That is where the idea of training the faculty and staff began.

Dr. Elena Macias, assistant Vice President of Governmental & Community Relations and FUEL’s Faculty Advisor, listened and understood our frustrations. She, along with Jamie Johnson from the Upward Bound Program on-campus and a member of the Orange County "Dream Team" for the past 5 years, ran the first training in the Fall 2008 semester.

Dr. Elena approached and asked us, "What if students could identify the people with whom they could speak about AB-540?"

When we first heard this we all simply replied, "Well, we would feel more comfortable, we wouldn’t have to explain everything to them, and we wouldn’t be afraid. But how would we know whom to approach?"

Dr. Macias and Mr. Johnson established the training around the needs that we, FUEL members, needed. At our Fall 2008 retreat, we sat together and compiled a list of things that we needed in an ally. During the trainings, Dr. Macias has shared with the staff and faculty what we feel we need from them. Fortunately with the training, our allies will give us confidentiality and we will no longer feel afraid to approach them.

A particular lack of information has been of great concern to me, however: the origins of the training. It is very important to acknowledge that the Ally Training was inspired by the LGBTQ Safe Zone training. It is also important to recognize the similarities between the undocumented student population on campus that cannot speak out to just anyone and the LGBTQ community that cannot just come out to anyone on campus either. A student is able to recognize the AB-540 or Safe Zone plaque and immediately understand that it is a place of confidentiality. The link between these groups is important because both can be considered an invisible minority on campus. If a person can understand the frustration of one group, they can begin to understand the frustration of the other. I do believe that the similarity between the Safe Zone Training and the Ally Training can help establish solidarity between many groups.

That is exactly what we need right now. All groups fighting for social justice to join together and understand each others’ struggles. ¶

For more AB-540 student resources, check out CSULB's AB 540 On-Line Resource Guide.

1 comment:

Yady said...

Is there some sort of protection against harassment of AB-540 students on campus?