Working Together to Improve Campus Climate for Undocumented AB540 Students at UC Berkeley

A Research Report by UC Berkeley Center for Race Gender and the Center for Latino Policy Research

February 2013

This research report explores the campus climate for undocumented immigrant students at Cal. The report is part of the CRG Undocumented Students Research & Arts Initiative focusing on undocumented students at UC Berkeley and beyond.

Principal Investigators:
Dr. Lisa García Bedolla, Associate Professor of Education; Director of the Center for Latino Policy Research
Dr. Evelyn Nakano Glenn, Professor of Ethnic Studies Gender and Women’s Studies;Director of the Center for Race and Gende

Graduate Student Researcher:
Kevin Escudero, M.A., Ph.D. Candidate; Department of Ethnic Studies

Campus and Community Partners:
Alisa Bierria (Associate Director, Center for Race Gender)
Elisa Diana Huerta (Director, Multicultural Community Center)
Lupe Gallegos-Díaz (Director, Chicano/Latino Student Development)
Jere Takahashi (Director, Asian Pacific American Student Development)
Rising Immigrant Scholars through Education (R.I.S.E.)

This research report highlights the inception, scope and goals of the research project, “Working Together to Improve Campus Climate for Undocumented AB540 Students at UC Berkeley.” Funded by the Haas Foundation through the UC Berkeley Division of Equity Inclusion, the project had three goals: 1) to initiate intentional community building efforts among undocumented students across the lines of race, ethnicity and national origin 2) to launch an investigative research project that collects critical data about the experiences and insights of undocumented students at UC Berkeley and 3) to facilitate the distribution of findings from our community building and research projects.


Executive Summary

Summary of findings and recommendations

After extensive data collection and evaluation, we found:

  • Asian/Pacific Islander AB540 students are less involved in organizing around this issue and therefore often are less aware of the resources available to support AB540 students on campus.
  • Family dislocation and separation due to stringent immigration laws is a significant factor in undocumented students’ lives.
  • Many undocumented students first go to community college before they ultimately matriculate to Cal, making community colleges an important point in the K-12 to college pipeline.
  • Many campus entities had been working to provide support and resources to AB540 students, but there was no systematic cataloging of those resources and spaces. We attempt to provide that catalogue here.
  • Staff and faculty have been both unsupportive and very supportive of undocumented students, making it hard to know who students can trust on campus.
  • Despite the passage of AB130 and 131, the financial situation for AB540 students remains a challenge, and needs to continue to be addressed by Cal’s financial aid office and other entities in a position to provide material support to these students.
  • The creation of a staff position to support AB540 students has greatly improved these students’ ability to access information in a centralized location. However, many students remain unaware of this resource.
  • Mental health resources need to be developed for this population of students. Student activism has been one critical outlet for students to support their own well-being as well as for creating social change.
  • The writing workshop provided students with a safe space they found to be supportive and useful both personally and academically.

We therefore recommend:

  • UC Berkeley should continue to lead on this issue, maintaining support for Meng So’s position and for his office to continue to provide ongoing training for different campus units about AB540 issues, as well as for the newly opened Dreamers’ Resource Center and other staff and offices on campus who have been supporting undocumented students such as Student Development Offices and the Multicultural Community Center.
  • The university should make a proactive effort to ensure that Asian/Pacific Islander AB540 students have information about and access to the support services available on campus.
  • To decrease isolation, the university should support a peer mentorship program to help students develop and nurture community on campus, and help navigate campus systems.
  • The university should actively assist students with their legal options.
  • We need more targeted outreach and support services for potential undocumented transfer students. Campus staff should work collaboratively with counselors and faculty at the community colleges.
  • Alternative pedagogical spaces, like the writing workshop and the Teatro Lab at the Theater, Dance, Performance Studies, should be supported to provide undocumented students with outlets where they can work through their challenges while also developing their academic skill sets.
  • The Tang Center Counseling and Psychological Services need further trainings and should actively work to recruit and hire additional staff with expertise in assisting immigrant students, students of color, working-class students and other campus populations with similar backgrounds
  • The Career Center should develop services targeted towards the unique situation undocumented students face in the job market.
  • A mandatory training for campus faculty and staff will help create more consistent support for students across campus.
  • A resource guide tailored specifically to the AB540 students on the UC Berkeley campus should be done in hard copy and disseminated to all students, faculty, staff and administrators at Berkeley would be significantly helpful.
  • The university should actively support current and pending legislation, in particular the federal DREAM Act.
  • The Chancellor and UCPD work with the Berkeley Police Department must make the UC Berkeley campus and surrounding areas, a sanctuary campus. The university must uphold their responsibility of ensuring that campus is a safe place for ALL students including undocumented students and will not allow federal agencies, such as ICE, to come onto campus. A policy or MOU regarding dealing with AB 540 students and their safety/involvement at protests would be a good first step towards this end.