Escuela, Política

A Closer Look: UCLA’s Underground Students

Remember those undocumented college students I’ve mentioned time and time again? Well, there’s more stories, four to be exact, and two touching photos essays.

The Daily Bruin’s series on AB 540 students profiles four students, all in slightly different situations. Three of the students are current undergrads. Ernesto sent out an email and texts to his friends just to be able to pay for the $2,600 or so it costs to attend UCLA for winter quarter. Victor’s father was picked up by ICE officials at his home and later deported to Peru after 17 years in the states. He considered leaving UCLA to spend more time running the family gardening business. Stephanie has been in school six years, she attends when she has the money to pay and skips a quarter when she can’t afford the cost. Mariana received her green card less than a year ago and is now a graduate student at Harvard. She’s part of an effort to get legislation passed in Massachusetts similar to California’s AB 540, which allows undocumented students who have graduated from a California high school to pay in-state tuition at public colleges and universities.

Oh yeah, and if you’re more of a visual person, you should also check out the photo essays: part one, part two.


11 thoughts on “A Closer Look: UCLA’s Underground Students

  1. Did you catch the debate tonight? Jorge Ramos asked Clinton and Obama their views on bilingualism. Hillary responded that while she voted against English Only proposals, she felt that everyone should learn to speak English (though not be discriminated against if they couldn’t) because it is a unifying force.

    Obama agreed with the importance of learning English, but also said that when it is educationally indicated, their should be bilingual instruction so that kids learning English don’t fall behind. Furthermore, that every student in the country should learn a second language. Moreover, that one of the tragedies of NCLB was that in the test-prep craze, other important programs went by the wayside, one of the most important being “foreign” language instruction.

    Also, and most importantly, Obama, in response to questions about immigration, again voiced strong support for the Dream Act and flat out stated (at least this is what I picked up) that we have a responsibility to these children who have lived here most of their lives. Of course we do, but good to hear a strong candidate for president say so.

  2. I’m curious, if this is so important (which it is) then why doesn’t UCLA (or any of the other universities) just give these students a free ride? Why all the pandering for more tax money?

    Watching UCLA grovel for more money for students would be like watching Warren Buffett pleading for money to send his kids to private school…one has to wonder why he doesn’t just pay himself? We all know UCLA is far richer than the average already overly taxed California citizen.

  3. Kjerringa,
    I didn’t get to watch the debate. I’ve missed all of them because I always have meetings on Thursday evening. I’m glad they discussed this issue. I know Obama’s comprehensive immigration reform differs from Clinton’s because of the requirement to learn English (he requires it, she doesn’t). When I heard him speak at LA Trade Tech College, he spoke on this and followed up his “everyone must learn English” statement with, “but I also need to learn Spanish.” There were a lot of cheers for that. Did Obama articulate what the DREAM Act meant? At LATT he talked about it, but if you weren’t familiar with the law you wouldn’t know it was about undocumented students.

    You’re welcome.

    UCLA and other public colleges and universities are limited by little things called Proposition 209 and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Individual Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRAIRA).

    Proposition 209, which amended the California constitution, states that national origin and ethnicity can’t be considered in admissions decisions. The law has been extended to campus-based programs and financial aid. There are no scholarships only for Latino or Black students at UCLA or other UC’s (at least not that they are administered by the institutions themselves).

    With IIRAIRA, non-citizens can’t receive benefits not available to citizens, or something like that. I’m no legal scholar. However, I have read enough on the issue to know that the loophole in IIRAIRA allowing states to make laws allowing undocumented students to pay in-state tuition is that the policy is based on high school attendance and not citizenship status.

    Thus, doing something like waiving tuition fees because these students are undocumented would violate both 209 and IIRAIRA. These students can’t receive financial aid (even if up to a third of their fees go in to the “return to aid,” which becomes financial aid) because they don’t have a SSN or permanent resident number to fill out the FAFSA. In order to get financial aid from UCLA, you have to fill out the FAFSA.

    Believe me, UCLA is no Warren Buffet, especially as we’re getting prepared to deal with 10% cuts across the board. I think you’re getting us confused with a place like Stanford where kids with family incomes up to $100,000 would get free tuition. That same kid at UCLA would not get much financial aid — if any — at UCLA or other UCs.

    Wait, you think things were progressing? Heh.

  4. Hmmm…interesting. I didn’t know that. Does UCLA have any price floor? What if my parents made 20k/year, still gotta pay the whole tuition? Is a SSN required?

    As a general rule, I am reluctant to support any type of government welfare for immigrants. History has shown that there is an inverse relationship between welfare for immigrants and the support of immigration – the more welfare immigrants receive, the less support there is for immigration. You only need to look at Europe and the Scandinavian countries to see this relationship clearly. My first priority will always be immigration itself.

  5. TacoSam,
    I don’t remember if any of the articles mentioned it, but these students are kind of helping themselves. They raise scholarship money through a group called IDEAS and go out to high schools to inform other young undocumented students about how they can go to college too.

    Dude, don’t you read my posts on this issue? I thought I’d spelled it out clearly before. But anyway, to answer your question, no. UCLA does not have a price floor. If your parent’s made 20K a year, you would have to pay the full fees (not tuition, we don’t have “tuition” unless you’re a non-CA resident). The only way you get a break on your fees is if you fill out the FAFSA. Students can’t submit the FAFSA if they are undocumented, have a previous drug conviction or decline to enroll in the selective service (for men). If you fill out the FAFSA, then UCLA can calculate your need and award you Cal Grants, Pell Grants, school-based grants, loans, and work-study. Most external scholarships are processed through the financial aid office too.

  6. Dude, don’t you read my posts on this issue? I thought I’d spelled it out clearly before. But anyway, to answer your question, no. UCLA does not have a price floor. If your parent’s made 20K a year, you would have to pay the full fees

    I don’t remember you discussing this on your previous blog posts. Either way though, I like hearing you say it. It reiterates one of the many reasons why I consider todays elite Universities one of the greatest causes of inequality in the United States.

  7. Letty says:

    In talking to undocumented students and completing an internship at a private institution in the area, I think it’s easier for students to get financial support at private schools. Sadly, once they have their degrees, they still can’t get a job in their field. I know of one student who is going on to get a graduate degree and others have been encouraged to start their business upon graduating.

    Thanks for for the post – very poweful…

  8. I met the writer behind these feature stories in a protest in downtown. Like her I do what I can to raise awareness and let people and students know what’s going on in our schools. I write for East Los Angeles College paper and have writen opinion stories about ab 540 students. You can check it out on my blog at

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