by Linda Mumma


TURLOCK (CBS13) — The California State University Chancellor’s Office announced Wednesday it will provide immigration legal services to students, staff and faculty at Sacramento and Stanislaus State Universities.

CSU announced partnerships with four immigrant-rights organizations around the state to roll out legal services to all but one of its 23 campuses over the next six months. The only exception is California State University Maritime Academy located in Vallejo.

The program has already begun at CSU Stanislaus. Last month, the campus held two workshops which filled to capacity and are urging students to sign up early for future events.

“When I came to Stan State I thought I was the only one. I didn’t know there were other people like me,” student Blanca Becerra.

Becerra is the first in her family to attend college and a DACA or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals student at Stanislaus State. The purpose of DACA is to protect eligible immigrant youth who came to the United States when they were children from deportation.

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DACA gives young undocumented immigrants protection from deportation and a work permit.

Hundreds of students at Stanislaus State have to apply every two years in order to continue their higher education.

“I started out in the nursing program, but really like working with children so I decided to do liberal studies,” said Becerra.

Becerra said she and her family moved to Gilroy, California from Mexico when she was just eight years old. She’s now a fifth-year student working to earn a teaching credential and spends much of her time working with elementary school students at a nearby campus.

“Getting to know more people in the same situation as me made it so much better,” Becerra said.

Becerra is now a volunteer in the Diversity Center on campus, which according to its website, “advocates for an inclusive and respectful space for students from all backgrounds.”

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She was happy to learn the CSU will launch a system-wide plan to provide students like herself with immigration legal services right on campus.

“I think they’re really good to have those here because they are really expensive,” she said.

She said it costs many students time and money; some driving several hours away just to meet with an attorney to apply every two years.

“There aren’t many services here in the Central Valley,” she said.

Paulet Hernandez works as the DACA coordinator on campus. She said there’s huge demand for these services on campus. Many of which will now be free.

“For example, if they want to apply for DACA it’s usually around $400 dollars for what the attorney charges, plus the fees, of course, they have to pay,” Hernandez said.

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The CSU system is home to an estimated 9,500 undocumented students, according to the Chancellor’s office. Over the next six months, campuses will begin rolling out legal services like DACA renewals, family-based petitions and general assistance with filling out forms.

Hernandez said Stanislaus State will have two lawyers on campus every two weeks.

Stanislaus State is partnering with Immigration Legal Defense (IDL), a non-profit organization based in Oakland that’s sponsored by the United Farm Workers Foundation. IDL will supply the attorneys, paralegals and other representatives while Stan State schedules the appointments, provides meeting space and hosts workshops and outreach events.

“We’re really excited about these services on campus. They’re really needed,” said Hernandez.

Services some folks at the Stanislaus County Republican Party don’t necessarily support.

“These costs are going to trickle down to the students who are going to have to pay for all of this. The taxpayers who are going to have to pay for all of this,” said member Joseph Day.

Students argued it will allow them to give back to their communities once they graduate.

“It will be so much better because I usually have to go home to do that so I have to drive two hours to my appointment and then come back,” said Becerra.

CSU is funding the partnerships with $7 million in state money. Students without documentation will be prioritized for legal assistance over students with legal immigration issues, university staff and faculty.