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California State University to Offer Immigrant Services for Students and Employees

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An estimated 9,500 students across California State University’s (CSU) 23 campuses are undocumented.  In August, the university announced plans to provide immigration legal services to students and employees on campus. 

“These thousands of Californians are pursuing their dreams for a better future every day on CSU campuses. The expanded services and resources that will soon be available will bring support, legal guidance and some peace of mind to enable our students and employees to focus on academic and professional pursuits,” said University Chancellor Timothy P. White.  

To provide legal assistance to the CSU community, the California Department of Social Services contracted with four providers—namely the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA), Immigrant Legal Defense (ILD), CARECEN, and Jewish Family Service — who will serve 22 of the 23 campuses.  While CSU’s Maritime Academy will not have onsite immigration assistance,  members will have access to legal services and events at nearby campuses.

Legal assistance providers will routinely dispatch staff such as attorneys and paralegals to designated campuses based on demand for free services, which at first will be limited to “general consultations, DACA renewals and general assistance in filling out forms such as family-based petitions,” according to the university statement. Legal professionals are barred from legal representation in deportation or removal proceedings. 

Those in need of immigration assistance can apply confidentially online. Once the intake is complete, campus coordinators assist students and staff in scheduling one on one appointments. Priority will go to undocumented students seeking appointments and legal help, followed by students with other legal questions, and then CSU staff members.

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) received $7 million through the 2018 Budget Act, for the purpose of launching immigration services on CSU campuses. Then the 2019-2020 state budget allocated another $7 million and converted the amount to recurring funds that will keep the services going. These developments in support of the university’s undocumented students and staff is especially significant, as California State University is the largest system of four-year higher education in the U.S.

“We remain committed to ensuring that all CSU students have the opportunity to pursue their higher education goals regardless of their country of origin. This inclusive foundation extends to our employees, who demonstrate their dedication to student achievement and success on a daily basis,” said Chancellor  White.

“You can just tell students are leaving more relieved, more informed and just understanding where they’re at,” said Barbara Pinto, managing attorney with the Immigrant Legal Defense (ILD), in an interview with CSU student newspaper, The Daily Titan. Of the non-profit’s ability to provide immigration services at CSU campuses from Fresno to San Francisco State, Pinto said, “We want students to be focused on their studies, and not have to think, worry and feel really anxious about what their legal status is.” 

Cassandra Etienne is a freelance reporter and video journalist based in New Jersey. Her multimedia and documentary projects reflect an interest in cultural reporting, and in covering social issues such as civil rights, women's health, and education and healthcare reforms.