New Legal Lifeline for Undocumented Students at Community Colleges

Community Colleges

Vidya Sethuraman
India Post News Service

As the decade-long legal battle over the DREAM Act and legal protection for California’s undocumented population continues, Find Your Ally (findyourally.com) offers legal lifelines for some 50,000-70,000 undocumented community college students.

Find Your Ally – offered through the Higher Education Legal Services Project – is an unprecedented state-funded effort to provide all students enrolled in the CA Community Colleges and their families with free immigration legal assistance, which includes the opportunity to have their DACA fees covered. Students qualify whether full-time or part-time, taking for credit or non-credit courses, dual enrollment, and adult education courses.

In the EMS briefing on Oct 24 cosponsored by the Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC) and the Foundation for California Community Colleges, college students, college administrators, and statewide immigrant legal service experts  discussed what services are most crucial to helping immigrants achieve the future they want and what legal challenges they face.

Alonso Garcia, Senior Program Manager, Equity at Foundation for California Community Colleges said it is an unprecedented California funding project aimed at providing all students in California community colleges. and their families are provided with free immigration legal assistance, including the opportunity to obtain DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) fees for students.

Students are eligible whether enrolled full-time or part-time, in credit or non-credit courses, dual enrollment and adult education courses. Garcia said that starting in 2022, the California Department of Social Services will cooperate with legal aid agencies across California to provide a wide range of free legal services.

Community college students only need to enter their zip code to find nearby service agencies and get legal aid. The requirements for personal information that need to be provided are not high. As long as the name, email address and what kind of legal help are sought, all personal information will be protected.

Dr. Kelly Fletes, Dean of Student Services, Monterey Peninsula College California Community College student  said that many students have suffered huge challenges during the epidemic. Many students have paid tens of thousands of dollars in legal service fees, but their applications have not been settled.

She said that the situations of many undocumented students are complicated and not every student is suitable for free legal aid services, but at least they can be referred to other agencies that can help through relevant channels.

Manoj Govindaiah, Managing Attorney for Immigrant Legal Defense said that the two major obstacles for undocumented students to obtain legal aid are the difficulty in obtaining high-quality legal services and the difficulty of transportation in remote areas.

Therefore, the free legal aid launched by the government has enabled a large number of undocumented people in remote areas and lack of resources to receive high-quality legal aid. In addition to physical services, there are currently many online and online services.

Also Read: Amid Pandemic, the woes faced by immigrants