My buddy Elaine Reodica is part of the student government at UCLA, where she serves as the Financial Supports Commissioner. (For all those nativists that like to see me suffer to great ends, know that I am the Al Gore of that position).
The student government at UCLA provides funding for student groups, puts together a bunch of events like movie screenings, concerts and workshops, and endlessly fights to the bitter end to declare a victor in the eternal battle between the respective slates of candidates elected each spring.
This year, Reodica and other within the UCLA student government decided that it would be a good idea for leftover funds from the previous year to go to the creation of a small, but meaningful Book Scholarship. They pulled the right strings, made the right pitches, and succeeded in giving 30 students scholarships worth $250 to buy books in the student store. Their only setback? Undocumented students are not eligible due to state law:
But while the seeds of good news are planted, Reodica said the drawing was a “bittersweet” realization of a campaign promise she classified as her number-one priority."So what?," you may say in your most despicable nativist lack of compassion. But when one follows the money in this issue, you realize that undocumented students are being shortchanged because AB540 never guaranteed them equal status in the first place. So here is the fact and fiction money routes to consider:
Undocumented students were not included in the pool because they are ineligible to receive financial aid or public funds based on California law. This included Assembly Bill 540 students who pay in-state tuition fees.
Reodica said she was exploring alternative options to include “every student with needs.” This includes legal council with the university and a possible resignation from USAC to solicit private donations through private organizations.
“As much as I’m celebrating today, I won’t consider this a done platform until every student with needs is eligible,” Reodica said.
FACT(as provided by Underground Undergrads and the rest of the youth immigrant movement):
1. AB540 student finds money: Work, fundraisers, private scholarships, or in my case, being really, really ridiculously good looking.
2. AB540 student pays the university: This quarter, enrollment costs are exactly $2,822 at UCLA (at least for the one guy I asked). Then you have to also worry about food, housing, transportation, books.
3. Student government gets money: It comes from ALL students, and it goes to fund ALL its activities.
4. Student government operates: Reodica and her peers try to create a program to help ALL students, but the law intervenes because when the money goes to the school it becomes state money.
5. AB540 student, inching a bit closer to understanding taxation without representation, drinks a Sam Adams to honor the founding fathers.
FICTION(as blurted out by the know-nothing nativists):
1. AB540 students beat up kids from other states.
2. University gives them lots of money from OUR hard-earned tax dollars for them to swim on and buy Rolexes, even though they are illegal, and what part of illegal do you not understand, and let it be known I am all for immigration as long a s it is legal, and you have to wait in the back of the line, oh what you say there is no line for these students? well still they are asking for a freebie, oh and soccer sucks. English Only!
3. Everybody speaks Spanish.
I do hope that the university finds a solution to this mess. As you can see, the flawed argument that poses taxpayers vs. undocumented students is not rooted in the actual scenarios presenting themselves in the schools, but only in the minds of those who oppose equal access for undocumented students. And while our "fiction" example is outrageous and extreme, it shows how convoluted the conversation becomes if we detach it from its base: the students. This problem, of course, could have been solved by the California Dream Act. And even though I risk sounding like a bigot nativist, I am gonna blame that failure on an immigrant. Nonetheless, good job to Elaine and the rest of the gang at UCLA. Keep it up!