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California Lawmakers Approve $21M In Immigration Legal Aid For Students

A pamphlet offers UC San Diego students advice on what to do if approached by...

Photo by Megan Burks

Above: A pamphlet offers UC San Diego students advice on what to do if approached by an immigration officer, June 21, 2018.

University of California attorneys opened about 1,200 immigration cases on behalf of students and their families last school year, a 30 percent uptick from the previous year.

That’s why Gov. Jerry Brown is being asked to sign two bills that would boost legal aid for immigrant students by $21 million.

The money would go to programs such as UC San Diego’s Undocumented Student Services Center. Coordinator Daniel Alfaro said the center helps students renew their DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, status and apply for residency or citizenship.

RELATED: His Parents Were Deported Two Weeks Before College, Now He’s A UC San Diego Graduate

“Our goal is to get them to be career-ready, to get them to be contributors to our economy, contributors to our society. And so their immigration status is something that we need to look into,” Alfaro said. “We can’t just graduate individuals and have them not do what they wanted to do with their careers.”

His office also offers holistic support — from a food pantry to help finding housing — to ensure students are able to focus on their studies. To that end, it also offers legal advice to family members of students.

“The family unit is important for the students to be able to fulfill their academic requirements, to be in good mental health, and to be able to have that family support that any other student needs to stay on campus,” Alfaro said.

Alfaro said this year his office organized to have a few students with DACA protection accept their diplomas at other UC campuses, so their parents wouldn’t have to cross immigration checkpoints to see their children graduate.

The UC system has doubled down on its support for immigrant students as some argue policies that help them remain in the country would encourage more people to cross into the United States illegally.

UC San Diego has about 400 students in the country illegally, Alfaro said.

A separate office offers legal services to all students.

Community colleges and state universities offer legal assistance to all students, including those in the country illegally. Last year they opened 30 percent more immigration cases.

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