Undocumented student organization seeks trustees’ support

Members of the UIC student organization, Fearless Undocumented Alliance

Members of the UIC student group Fearless Undocumented Alliance spoke at the July 24 UI Board of Trustees meeting. L-R: Yaxal Sobrevilla, Gerardo Salinas, Natalie Cruz, Jocelyn Munguia Chavez.

Students from a new UIC student organization, Fearless Undocumented Alliance, asked for support Thursday from University of Illinois trustees for scholarships and financial aid for undocumented students.

The students spoke during the public comment portion of the Board of Trustees meeting at Student Center East.

Natalie Cruz, an Honors College student and a senior in marketing, told trustees that joining UIC was “one of the proudest moments of my life.”

Cruz told trustees that she took classes at community college for four years, then tried to enroll at Governors State University but discovered she had no access to financial aid as an undocumented student.

Cruz said she continued taking community college classes until there were none left in her major. After the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — which allows eligible undocumented individuals to apply for employment authorization — was implemented in 2012, Cruz has been able to work to pay for tuition at UIC.

“This is the situation with most undocumented students,” said Cruz, president of Fearless Undocumented Alliance.

“We do the community college route. Then it becomes impossible to afford — paying out of pocket, without university scholarships, loans or financial aid — and we remain stuck in limbo,” she said.

Cruz asked trustees to support the group’s request for a campus adviser to help undocumented students navigate the university, as well as more access to financial aid and scholarships.

“We have a lot invested in the U of I system,” she said. “We stand together on the idea that our campuses will once again become a beacon of hope and opportunity for the undocumented student community.”

Gerardo Salinas, an undocumented student who is blind, spoke in support of Cruz’s requests, also requesting support for the Disability Resource Center.

Salinas, a junior in political science, wants to be a lawyer but he estimates it will take him five to 10 years to finish his bachelor’s degree. He’s only taken seven credit hours in three semesters at UIC because he has to pay full tuition.

“We just need opportunities,” he said. “We love this country. We love this nation. And we want the support of this nation.”

Yaxal Sobrevilla, who graduated from UIC in May, also urged trustees to provide more support for undocumented students.

“I’m happy to be standing here because it is indicative of the steps that UIC has taken to include student voices,” she said. “This is truly an opportunity for an honest conversation and a turning point in finding worthwhile solutions.

“I ask that you make the right choice and you stand with us.”

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