Sac State connects undocumented students to resources at DRC open house

Center will have free immigration legal clinics starting next Friday


Chris Wong

Marcos Perez, left, a business sophomore, and Juan Zamudio, middle, a mechanical engineering freshman, meet Basia Ellis. Ellis, a Sac State assistant child development professor, produced a webinar, “Addressing the Undocumented Stress Cycle.”

Chris Wong

Sacramento State’s Dreamer Resource Center (DRC) held an open house Friday in the Riverview Hall conference room to connect members of the undocumented community with resources and peers.

Erik Ramirez, the center’s program coordinator, noted that while an open house’s purpose is to share a group’s space with others, the event needed to move to a larger space. The DRC is located in the River Front Center, room 1022.

“Given the tremendous support we get from all of you and the cozy size of our center, we thought that it would be much nicer if we all got together, and came together, in a larger space,” Ramirez said.

One of the main goals of the open house was to get attendees acquainted with the resources available to students impacted by undocumented status. A few of the DRC’s student assistants, also known as the “Dream Team,” shared some resources that are available.

“We assist students that come from undocumented and mixed-status families and we help them navigate college and pursue higher education and build a support for those students,” said Marinez Ruiz, a Sac State senior and “Dream Team” member.

The center offers academic services such as peer to peer guidance, financial aid counseling and a shared scholarship list.

“Dream Team” member Joel Santiago said that providing these academic services is the reason he works with the DRC.

“The fact that they’re having an opportunity to get an education, something that maybe their fathers or mothers would’ve wanted to do and being able to do that with them is something I’m really passionate about,” Santiago said.

The center will also begin free immigration legal clinics starting next Friday from 12 to 5 p.m. Local attorneys and nonprofits will provide consultations to any students, faculty or staff. The clinics will run every Friday through the rest of the semester.

Valentino Morales, resident advisor and Sac State communication studies major, attended the event to learn about the services and share that information with his residents. Morales oversees the social justice and inclusion theme community in Sutter Hall.

“My goal in the theme community is to plan programs and plan things celebrating social justice and inclusion and teach that to my residents and everyone in the residence halls,” Morales said.

Students were encouraged to meet and exchange contact info with at least one other student, a DRC staff member and a Sac State faculty member. Those who exchanged with all three were entered in a raffle.

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Sac State President Robert Nelsen attended the open house and addressed the crowd.

Nelsen echoed sentiments he expressed earlier in a President’s Update email sent Thursday morning. He reaffirmed his support for members of the campus community impacted by undocumented status, two years after President Trump rescinded the program.

He said that while Congress is still at a standstill regarding comprehensive immigration reform, Sac State can still make strides for undocumented students, “What we can make happen is make this university a special place, a place that is caring, a place that is loving, a place where all of you belong.”

Before the event, Nelsen sat at tables with students to discuss immigration. Transfer junior and social work major Larisa Ortega was one of those students.

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“After talking to the president of the school, I knew that it was for a reason that I’m here, and I’m happy to know that the president has a [good] understanding of how hard the Dreamers have it,” Ortega said.

She asked Nelsen how he felt connected to the undocumented population. He recounted a student trumpeter he knew from his time as president of the University of Texas-Pan American.

“He was part of our award-winning mariachis, and President Obama asked them to come play in the White House; that’s how good they were.”

 Despite the student’s undocumented status, he was able to fly to D.C. under the Obama’s administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, Nelsen said.

At the end of the event, Ramirez said that he was pleased with the turnout.

“What was really nice to see was it was a lot of students as well,” Ramirez said. “I wouldn’t even say a balance because I think there were more students really than faculty and staff.”

Math Loch, a biochemistry major, was one of those students. 

“I came because I’m also a Dreamer and I want to support events like this because it’s rare to see something like this on any campus whether it’s here or across community colleges or high schools even,” Loch said.

The DRC plans to host more events in the future. Among those are Dreamer Ally Training on Oct. 16 and the fourth annual Keeping the Dream Alive Conference on Dec. 2.