No paperwork, no pay: Student president goes unpaid without documentation
The first undocumented ASI President cannot get paid due to legal status and a pending DACA.
September 23, 2015
The ASI Board of Control will hear the proposal that would change the way ASI executives get paid next Tuesday at their weekly meeting, according to ASI Treasurer Wendy Lewis.
The proposed revisions, first brought up in July, are a result of Salazar not being able to get paid for his job as president due to his undocumented legal status and pending Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals paperwork.
“Nowhere in the [election] requirements did it say that you needed a Social Security number,” Salazar said. “I didn’t think it was a mandatory thing to have your DACA, until after I got elected.”
DACA is an immigration policy that allows people who came to the U.S. as children and meet several guidelines to request to be able to work in the U.S. for a period of two years. After two years, the person can request a renewal, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website.
As a senator, Salazar was able to get paid because the payment is classified as a “director’s fee,” which is not defined as compensation, according to James Ahumada, interim communications manager for ASI. Executive officers’ payments are classified as fellowship grants, defined as compensation, which people who are undocumented cannot receive legally.
“As a Senator, I got paid,” Salazar said. “So by logic, if I’m an undocumented person, and I’m doing work for a company already, by logic, you would think you would get paid for something else.”
When Salazar started running for president, he was told by ASI officials there was a possibility that he would not be able to get paid and he chose to proceed with his campaign, Lewis said.
ASI executives get their tuition waived and a $300 per month meal plan with 49er Shops, among other benefits. Salazar still receives these benefits.
When Salazar first took office, Jeff Klaus, ASI dean of students, informed him that unless Salazar completed his DACA or the ASI payment policy was changed, Salazar would have to volunteer as President and receive no payment for his work, Klaus said.
“As an advocate for students, I wanted to make sure that it was clear to him that here are the two options, and if those aren’t in place, in a sense, you would be volunteering, and are you comfortable with that?” Klaus said. “He said, ‘Okay, I’m okay with volunteering.’”
Salazar said once he found out he needed DACA, he filled it out and sent it, but not without the hesitation of knowing that it might negatively affect his family. Many undocumented immigrants are skeptical of submitting DACA because they believe the government might use their information to deport their families, Salazar said.
“It’s not as simple as saying ‘Oh, you had this much time to fill out a [DACA] application,’” said Antonio Ramirez, a historian of CSULB’s La Raza Student Association.
La Raza is supporting Salazar but mostly as “moral support” because the proposal is still being heard at the BOC, Ramirez said. The organization plans to be in attendance when BOC votes on the matter.
The DACA application costs $465 total and if the individual decides to use an attorney to make sure the paperwork is filled out correctly, it can cost additional thousands of dollars, according to La Raza officers.
“I was about to apply for [DACA] in December, but I chose to not run with my DACA because I wanted to prove a point to the students,” Salazar said. “If someone who’s undocumented can do it, so can everyone else. I wanted to empower the undocumented community, because once you have DACA … you are temporarily documented.”
ASI executives get paid $632, twice a month, according to the organization’s website. ASI has classified executive officer salary as a “fellowship grant,” and Salazar’s proposal would change that classification to a scholarship. But, the policy change would not go into effect until June 1, 2016, at the end of Salazar’s term.
ASI Treasurer Wendy Lewis said the change would introduce a host of problems, which ASI’s lawyers and other experts pointed out when they first considered the proposal. One of the problems would be that scholarships pay out once during the fall and spring semesters, so the executives would not get paid during the summer while they’re working.
The policy change would also affect the 25 hour per week requirement that executives have to spend working for ASI, the policy could no longer require that because the student would have already gotten paid at the beginning of the semester.
“There would be no accountability,” Lewis said. “And if that person, whoever the executive is, decides not to come in anymore – let’s say school gets hard like it always does … and they stop showing up – now we have to hire someone to do that job.”
Lewis also said that the executive positions require the responsibility of a full-time job and if a student in the future decided not to fulfill that role, they could keep the scholarship money they already collected and not do their job.
Salazar has brought up to the BOC that other universities’ student governments pay officers by scholarship. Although, Lewis said those organizations don’t have as much responsibility as CSULB’s ASI and they do not get paid nearly as much as ASI officers.
Miriam Hernandez, the vice president of ASI, and Salazar are both undocumented. Hernandez has been paid because she completed the DACA prior to taking office.
Hernandez said she has been trained to help people complete their DACA paperwork and worked with over 100 people fill theirs out. When Salazar was elected, ASI officials asked Hernandez to encourage him to submit his paperwork, and Hernandez helped him complete his DACA, Hernandez said.
“DACA is a big thing like this,” said Hernandez, as she held her fingers about six inches apart. “Huge. You need to prove that you were here and that you have been here for the past five years and you need to prove when you started living in the United States. So you’re looking at documentation from , you’re looking at the donut receipt that you had back then.”
Salazar also received financial support for the application fees from the administration, ASI and the Dream Resource Center.
“Someone said this to me and it really rung a bell: ‘Someone who would drag their feet to do the paperwork they need for themselves, what kind of term do you think their going to have for a corporation?’” Lewis said. “I need you to be together yourself in order to have this corporation together. It really is a reflection of the type of leadership that we chose to have here.
“That’s what I’m fearful for as well if we do change this policy: if we’re okay-ing someone not being accountable to their own personal things that they have to be done before coming into office, this is something he should’ve done before he was even thinking about running, then it’s definitely something that should set off an alarm to someone. Do you really want this person to run a corporation, a multi-million dollar corporation, as a CEO?”
Salazar said that he will push the revision to the senate if it does not pass in BOC to let them vote on it. If it does not pass, he wants to change the wording in the policy and election paperwork to reflect that students need a Social Security number to get paid.
“The whole reason I’m pushing this … [is because] I would never want this to happen to someone else,” Salazar said. “I would never want them to be put in this same situation that I was put in. I already have a lot of difficulties being undocumented.”
When Salazar presented his proposal to the BOC, the number of undocumented students at CSULB was at about 2 percent, Lewis said. Of that 2 percent, some do have DACA or are able to get it.
“I know [Salazar’s] push is to be more inclusive, but … essentially we would be changing the policy for .05 percent of students who may or may not choose to run,” Lewis said.
Hernandez and Lewis said they are working on allocating more resources to the Dream Success Center and are reviewing the requirements to run for executive office to make it more clear what is needed to get paid for the position. Lewis said that because of Salazar’s situation, she and Hernandez are also working with the Dream Success Center to get them to work with undocumented students, should they decide to run for office to get the correct paperwork done on time.
“[The Dream Success Center] was established to address a need for a particular section of our student body,” Ramirez said. “The fact that [Salazar is] meeting resistance on this issue doesn’t go along with previous actions by the university and the student body … It’s kind of a failure to be on the same message.”
BOC will hold a vote on whether to approve the revision Sept. 29 at 3:30 p.m. If BOC approves it, it move to the ASI Senate for final approval.
Miranda Andrade-Ceja also contributed to this article.