In the name of undocumented immigrants’ educational rights, students from all over California left UC Berkeley Friday morning on a 540-mile bike ride to UCLA, paved with press conferences at various schools and cities.
The second annual “Tour de Dreams” - originally conceived by a collective of UC and CSU students - will last nine days and include, at its largest capacity, 27 riders and seven volunteers. Riders seek to raise awareness about the struggles of undocumented students, push for federal legislation that would make such students eligible for financial aid opportunities and raise funds for their education.
Compared to last year, there are 11 more riders, a reversed direction in travel and renewed determination since the legislation advocated has not left the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee since its March 2009 proposal.
The DREAM Act, which the bikers are trying to bring to a vote by November, according to spokesperson Blanca Hernandez-Nunez, would grant six-year conditional citizenship to people who had been living in the U.S. before the age of 16 - and for five consecutive years prior to the law’s passage - and are now entering the military or at least two years of higher education. The act would allow them more, though still limited, financial aid opportunities, such as student loans and work study.
“You are not eligible for federal scholarships, loans or grants, so it is hard knowing that every semester, you have to fight for funds,” said one undocumented UC Berkeley sophomore who has lived in California since 1994. “You either have to try and get a private scholarship, even though you are eligible for so little, or you have to try and get a job over the summer, which could be even harder because they might not want to hire you since you don’t have a Social Security number.”
In order to apply for a job, the student said he provided his Individual Taxpayer Identification Number rather than a Social Security number. He did not want to name the job for fear that his employer would not rehire him.
The student is active in Rising Immigrant Students through Education, a group that teaches prospective UC Berkeley students about AB 540, a 2001 law that grants undocumented California residents in-state tuition if they attend a California high school for at least three years.
Annelisa Luong, the only other UC Berkeley student participating in the ride this year, said the fact that RISE is mostly Latino may be off-putting to undocumented students, compounding their feelings of isolation.
“Forty percent of UC system’s undocumented population is Asian or Pacific Islander,” she said. “I want to fight the media image that ‘Oh, this is a Mexican thing.’”
As the campus organizing coordinator for REACH! - an Asian or Pacific Island Recruitment and Retention center - Luong said she hopes to make the center a resource for non-Latino undocumented students.
“The least we can do is support our peers who are trying to do good things, trying to contribute,” she said.
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Keith Hubbard, a student at De Anza College in Cupertino, Calif., said he is riding in solidarity with all people who had to undergo immigration-related struggles, including his ancestors.
“I understand I am privileged,” he said. “I am fourth generation, so at one point we were undocumented. I am using the ride to honor that.”
- This is an article that was written about Tour de Dreams last year, I’ll be participating this year. I can’t explain how grateful I feel to be part of something so amazing. We’re hoping to have our first conference next week, I don’t know exactly how many of us are out of San Francisco but my first duty is to work on getting housing for 50+ people since there are talks about moving the start location to San Francisco. I will keep you all updated!! -Ro