Students rally for DREAM Resource Center

The rally was hosted by the La Raza Student Association.

Mike Botica

Donald J. Para, Cal State Long Beach Interim President, addresses the crowd of students and protesters in front of the CSULB bookstore on Thursday, May 1, 2014.

Raul Cabral, Staff Writer

Supporters of a DREAM Resource Center on campus for undocumented students staged a rally at the Maxson Plaza Thursday afternoon, imploring university officials to act and help them receive the support they say they need to successfully navigate college life.

Approximately 65 people came out to the event hosted by the La Raza Student Association on International Worker’s Day. Some carried signs reading “undocumented and unafraid” and “dream resource center now!”

The group marched to Brotman Hall chanting, “fight for equality…and our education!” When they arrived, the gates were shut and guarded by seven police officers in an effort to keep the student protesters out.

“Currently, undocumented students have been lacking the institutional support to help them reach graduation in a timely manner,” said Erika Suarez, an Associated Students Inc. senator-at-large and AB 540 student.

Assembly Bill 540, which was signed into law in 2001, allows eligible undocumented students to pay in-state tuition at public universities, according to the Cal State Long Beach Office of Government, Legislative, and Community Relations.

Over the course of four days, La Raza was able to obtain 485 signatures in support of a DREAM center, according to members of the organization.

The group’s goal is to have a center built and ready for use by spring 2015, much like the one that Cal State Fullerton opened last month. Fullerton’s Titan Dreamers Resource Center is the first of its kind in the Cal State University system.

In an effort to draw support, a number of students shared their personal journeys with those in attendance, many doing so for the first time in public.

Students, such as Miriam Hernandez, expressed frustration with the lack of help on campus.

“When I first got to Long Beach, I couldn’t apply for a lot of things,” she said. “I felt a lot of discrimination and fear that I was going to be judged because of my situation.”

CSULB Interim President Don Para addressed the group, empathizing with many in attendance.

“My father, who was an Italian immigrant, never became a citizen of this country,” Para said. “And, as much as he wanted to go back to visit his family, he couldn’t because he was afraid that he wouldn’t be able to get back in this country.”

However, Para did not give a concrete timetable if and when a center would open, saying only that the decision would be left to incoming president Jane Close Conoley.

“We are going to do something by the fall semester to begin to address your issues of needing to have some resources that you can talk to who is an expert on [AB] 540,” he said to attendees at the event. “A person who can give you the kind of information that you need and who can share with you scholarship opportunities and other ways that you can fund your education.”

Last Tuesday, Para met with a group of AB 540 students to address issues about the accessibility of resources on campus. Conoley also participated in the meeting via Skype.