In the past few years, the UCLA Labor Center has emerged as a national center for research, education, and policy on undocumented immigrant student issues. Many undocumented students were brought to this country as young children and have overcome racial, linguistic, and economic barriers to attend higher education institutions. In spite of their academic accomplishments, they are barred from most scholarships, are ineligible for student loans, and cannot legally work due to their immigration status. For many, there is no pathway to legalization.
In 2007, the Labor Center taught the first course on immigrant rights and higher education at UCLA. The book Underground Undergrads: UCLA Undocumented Immigrant Students Speak Out originated and was inspired by that course. In 2008, the book was the first published to capture the stories of undocumented immigrant students. The UCLA Labor Center has organized more than a hundred events to promote the book, and these events have served as educational and leadership development opportunities to build communities of undocumented students on campuses across the nation. Received with enthusiasm in the academic community, among policy makers, and by the general public, Underground Undergrads is now in its fourth printing and has sold more than ten thousand copies to date.
Originally the Underground Undergrads project, the Dream Resource Center was created in 2011 to develop educational and policy materials to help undocumented students access higher education. The Dream Resource Center promotes equal access to education by developing educational resources, leadership tools, and support mechanisms for immigrant students, along with educating the public about local and national policies. The main objective of this initiative is to build the Dream Resource Center infrastructure to prepare for the day when immigration reform would provide undocumented immigrant youth with a pathway to citizenship. At that time, there will be a tremendous need to provide educational and legal assistance to hundreds of thousands of youth who could be encouraged to apply for legal status through higher education. To build this infrastructure, the Dream Resource Center includes a leadership development component and a communications strategy. Ultimately immigrant student leaders trained through this national initiative are in the very best position to develop vital resources, strengthen new media outreach, contact the ethnic press, reach out to high school counselors and teachers, and encourage a new generation of immigrant youth to obtain legal status by pursuing their educational dreams.
Graduates Reaching A Dream Deferred was founded by undocumented graduate students and Labor Center interns in 2010 to address the needs of immigrant students interested in pursuing graduate education. GRADD works to establish a national network of students, faculty members, and community leaders dedicated to bringing resources and attention to this underserved student population. Through the creation of an inclusive and safe environment, GRADD works to reassure students that their academic and professional goals are achievable. As new generations of AB 540 students are graduating from college, there continues to be no path to citizenship. The choice to pursue a graduate education can be difficult as the graduate application process presents undocumented students with questions and obstacles that may differ greatly from their experiences during their undergraduate studies. Many AB 540 students who are currently enrolled in graduate programs were greatly inspired, motivated, and guided by the graduate paths of Tam Tran and Cinthya Felix. Cinthya was the first undocumented student to attend Colombia University's Mailman School of Public Health and Tam entered Brown University's PhD program in American civilization. For many current undocumented graduate students, hearing Tam's and Cinthya's stories helped them realize that their graduate academic goals were achievable.
In 2011 the Dream Resource Center, in partnership with the United We Dream Network, developed Dream Summer, the first national internship for DREAM Act student leaders across the country. One hundred and two leaders were placed full-tme for ten weeks with social-justice and labor organizations where the interns gained valuable experience and leadership skills. Dream Summer 2012 applications and information for students and host organizations are now available. We invite all DREAM Act leaders to apply.
Along with preparing for Dream Summer, the Dream Resource Center is also working on a follow-up publication to Underground Undergrads. The new book, Undocumented and Unafraid: Tam Tran, Cinthya Felix, and the Immigrant Youth Movement will be coming out soon.
For information on the Dream Resource Center's projects, resources, and education on legislation, please visit the DRC at http:www.dreamresourcecenter.org.
Watch the Dream Summer 2011 video