Club Advocates for Undocumented Students

Oswaldo Diaz

The message of V.O.I.C.E.S resonated within the audience as guest speakers and club members urged the community to get involved and make the dream of a better education a reality for undocumented students.

The meeting, which hosted a variety of speakers, food and even raffles, began with the history of the club. V.O.I.C.E.S. stands for “Voices Organizing Immigrant Communities for Educational Success.”

Omar Moreno and Aurea Barreto, two of the original five founding members of the club, described how after attending a conference of the Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education at UCLA they were inspired create the V.O.I.C.E.S club to help AB 540 students and the immigrant community.

AB 540, passed as a law on Oct. 12, 2001, authorizes undocumented students who meet specific criteria to pay in-state tuition at California public colleges and universities.
In order to qualify the student must have attended a California high school for three years or more, graduated from a California high school or attained a G.E.D and be registered or enrolled at an accredited institution of higher education in California. Students also need to file an affidavit as required by individual institutions, stating that they will apply for legal residency as soon as possible.

V.O.I.C.E.S strives to promote higher education for all AB 540 students (who because they are undocumented do not qualify for federal or state financial aid level) by providing them with resources such as scholarships, grants and sponsorships that they might not be aware of.

“When I started at Glendale College I did not know any of my options,” Moreno said as he commented on the lack of guidance available for AB 540 students when he first started at Glendale College in 2005.
Since then the club has become like a second family for many, “What began as a club idea grew into a family,” said Barreto as she commented on the sense of unity the club members share.

Aside from being a club at Glendale College, V.O.I.C.E.S is also involved in a community outreach program that provides information to local high school students, specially those who are AB540, on the opportunities available for higher education, the club’s mission and current immigration laws affecting undocumented students.

With the support from teachers, activists and writers involved in immigration rights, the club sponsors a variety of fundraisers, like a burrito sale in March and the upcoming soccer tournament this Saturday.

William Perez, author of “We ARE Americans: Undocumented Students Pursuing the American Dream,” talked about research he is conducting that examines the social and psychological development of immigrant and Latino students. He emphasized that this country is losing future leaders by not granting legal status to hardworking accomplished immigrants.

Perez has interviewed hundreds of undocumented immigrant students and discovered that 75 percent of them have career aspirations in fields that are in need of people. His research revealed that the top four professions these students would like to pursue are: doctor, lawyer, K-12 teacher and civil service.

An issue that was widely discussed at the meeting was the “Dream Act,” which if passed would enact two major changes to current immigration laws. The first would permit certain immigrant students, those who came to the U.S. at age 15 or younger, who have grown up in the U.S., to apply for temporary legal status and to eventually obtain permanent status and become eligible for U.S. citizenship if they go to college or serve in the U.S. military. The second eliminates a federal provision that penalizes states that provide in-state tuition without regard to immigration status.

V.O.I.C.E.S club adviser Greg Perkins encouraged the audience to get involved and participate. “Now just sit there and say that these were great speeches, but get involved, write letters to our congressmen because we need to get this piece of legislature passed.”

An often overlooked resource for AB 540 students and other undocumented immigrants are social networking sites such as Facebook. Perez as well as V.O.I.C.E.S. cabinet members reminded the audience that Facebook can be a useful way for students to connect.

By joining pro-immigration reform groups and communicating with others, students can share tips on getting sponsored, activities or meetings and experiences to create a source for support and encouragement through the Internet.

After being treated to chips, drinks and pizza the audience remained after the conference was over to discuss the issues and await the results of the raffle that offered T-shirts and movie passes.

“You rarely hear about undocumented student immigrants in the news. I’m glad I came, I learned a lot and will try to spread the word,” commented Oscar Diaz, a St. Francis High School student who heard about the conference by word of mouth at his school.
In the end, the conference succeeded in delivering a message of hope, inspiration and action as the Co-President Natalia Basanta encouraged people to act and spread awareness on immigration issues.

For more information on V.O.I.C.E.S. visit