La Colectiva promotes access to education

La Colectiva, a student social justice organization that focuses primarily on immigration reform, held a fundraiser Wednesday regarding a scholarship that would be given to undocumented students on campus.

The scholarship initiative is occurring while other legislation that seeks to aid undocumented students await approval, including the DREAM Act, which would help undocumented students gain citizenship.

The idea for the scholarship originally arose after a member of La Colectiva, Andrea Rosales, was arrested last year because she protested legislation that would prohibit school registration for undocumented individuals in Georgia. An online donation program began and quickly raised enough funds within two days to bail her out.

“After the online initiative worked, our focus shifted to an annual scholarship benefitting this group (undocumented students),” said Fernando Vazquez, president of La Colectiva and senior in LAS.

“These students that we’re aiding came to the United States when they were very young. This is their home and they’re Americans in every sense in the way … it’s beneficial for this country to have them.”

The event also featured story readings of stories written by people the scholarship would affect.

“A lot of them just need help, and help isn’t available,” said Jose Sanchez, senior in LAS. “Being an undocumented student is almost an invisible marker for them and can be extremely hard in just attending here. There are stories of students calling the financial aid office trying to get help and actually being recommended to not attend the University at all.”

Sanchez said similar to that of other states, Illinois illegal immigration laws can be strict and deportation is openly used. Yet it seems that Illinois could be taking a more open approach towards immigration as a result of recent discussion about the DREAM Act.

Under the act, qualifications such as graduating high school and military service would grant undocumented immigrants citizenship.

But because the act has yet to pass and more illegal immigrants are still arriving at the University, one concern regarding the scholarship has been the confidentiality of those who receive it.

“This scholarship is going to be open for undocumented students but not just for undocumented students,” Vazquez said. “We won’t be asking for any Social Security numbers or other proof of citizenship, so hopefully that will create a safe space for students to be willing to apply for the scholarship.”

With the announcement of the initiative, members of La Colectiva feel that it could be a large step forward for undocumented students on campus. Even nonmembers of La Colectiva are helping out.

“I stayed up until 2 a.m. just trying to help them with this event, and I’m not even a member,” said Gabriela Pedroza, senior in LAS.

“This is very close to my family. Both my parents and siblings were undocumented. I was the only natural-born citizen. I know that this is a cause that could help people like them … and people are going out of their way to bring attention to it.”