Culture

How One Latina’s App Is Helping Undocumented Students Find Ways To Pay For College

For high school seniors, applying to college can be a stressful process with applications and countless fees. But what can be even more stressful is being told you can’t go to college because of money. This is the harsh reality for thousands of undocumented immigrants every year that find out they don’t qualify for FAFSA or any government scholarships due to their legal status in the United States. Sarahi Espinoza Salamanca, knows first hand how this felt back in 2008 when she found out she didn’t qualify for FAFSA because she was undocumented.

“When I was in high school I found out that because I was undocumented I was not going to be able to qualify for FAFSA like all my other friends,” Salamanca, then 18, told Forbes. “I asked my counselor for guidance on other options to finance my college education and she said that people like me didn’t go to college.”

Espinoza Salamanca knew she had to find a solution to to an issue that affects millions in the U.S.

Credit: Jesse Urrutia

Salamanca, who came to the U.S. in 1994 from Mexico at the age of 4, had little to no resources to help pay for college.. At that time in California, in 2008, she qualified for some money under AB540, which allows certain undocumented students in-state tuition. However, it didn’t work to help pay for college since Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an immigration policy that provides qualified undocumented immigrants with a renewable work permit, didn’t exist until 2012.

Due to these circumstances, Salamanca didn’t go to college directly after high school because she didn’t think she could afford it. Instead, she worked jobs like cleaning houses and taking care of children.

Salamanca wasn’t the only one facing this dilemma, according to Educators for Fair Consideration, a nonprofit that advocates for undocumented immigrants, about 65,000 undocumented immigrants graduate from high school each year but only 10,000 graduate from college. 

With limited options, Salamanca took things into her own hands. She would submit an idea proposal to Voto Latino’s Innovator Challenge, which gives awards to five people with the best ideas in STEM aimed at Latinos in the U.S. Her proposal was DREAMers Roadmap, a nonprofit app that helps undocumented students around the country find scholarships to go to college.

Salamanca would win the competition and earn $100,000 to help jump start the app. She began working full time for DREAMer’s Roadmap after getting her associate’s degree from Cañada College in Redwood City in 2015.

Since the app launched in 2016, it
has helped over 20,000 undocumented students find scholarships.

Credit: @ModernLatinas/Twitter

The app finds scholarships from different organizations and shares scholarship information via text, email or social media. It also allows users to search for scholarships without having to create an account in case some undocumented students don’t want to give personal information.

DREAMer’s Roadmap has opened us countless opportunities for undocumented students across the country. Salamanca told Forbes that she is constantly hearing back from students about how the app has changed the trajectory of their lives. The app has also gained multiple national sponsors including the UC Berkeley’s Undocumented Student Program.

“As I travel the country sharing my story and my work I’ve been blessed to have met many of the users of our app and hearing their stories reminds me that we are doing a good job and fulfilling our mission of bringing hope and financial opportunities to immigrant communities.”

This is just the first step for Salamanca, who wants to continue helping undocumented students reach higher education.

Credit:@DreamersRoadmap/Twitter

Now a 28-year-old resident of East Palo Alto, Salamanca has received national praise and recognition for her work. In 2018, she was nominated for a Visionary of the Year award for her work towards undocumented communities. Salamanca now has a green card and has plans to continue her education at a four-year-college.

But for all the successes that have come Salamanca’s way she never forgets why she started this all. She reminds others the value of higher education and why having it harder for some to access it, is a loss of so much potential.

We are a country of immigrants and many of our giant companies have been founded by immigrants so why not educate our immigrants and accept them,” Salamanca told Forbes. “We as a country are losing so much talent and potential by making it so hard to educate these students. You would think we want to be a society of the most educated people but we make it nearly impossible for these kids to have an opportunity to be an essential part of this country. This is our home too.”

READ: ICE Releases Flight Attendant and DACA Recipient That Was Held for 6 Weeks

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Alejandro Mayorkas Is The First Latino And Immigrant To Be Named Secretary Of The Department Of Homeland Security

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Alejandro Mayorkas Is The First Latino And Immigrant To Be Named Secretary Of The Department Of Homeland Security

Alejandro Mayorkas is the first Latino and the first immigrant to lead the Department of Homeland Security. Mayorkas is Cuban-born and was one of the original architects of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Alejandro Mayorkas is the first Latino and immigrant to be confirmed as the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

Secretary Mayorkas is inheriting a Trump-era DHS and is immediately getting to work to rectify issues that the Biden administration has highlighted. Two of the most pressing issues are heading up a task force to reunite migrant families who were separated by the previous administration and reviewing the “Remain in Mexico” policy.

“Remain in Mexico” is a policy that the Trump administration created and enforced that sent migrants to Mexico to await their asylum cases. The policy has been criticized both by U.S. and international politicians as a humanitarian issue.

It isn’t Mayorkas’ first time working for DHS.

Sec. Mayorkas was the deputy secretary of DHS from December 2013 – October 2016 under President Barack Obama. During that time, Mayorkas was crucial in responding to the 2013 – 14 Ebola virus epidemic and 2015 – 16 Zika virus epidemic. Mayorkas is ready to come back to the department and to bring back what he sees are the department’s mission.

“DHS bears an extraordinary weight on behalf of the American people, the weight of grave challenges seen and unseen,” Sec. Mayorkas said in a statement. “It is the greatest privilege of my life to return to the Department to lead the men and women who dedicate their talent and energy to the safety and security of our nation. I will work every day to ensure that they have the tools they need to execute their missions with honor and integrity. The mission of the Department of Homeland Security is to safeguard the American people, our homeland, and our values. The United States is a welcoming and empathetic nation, one that finds strength in its diversity. I pledge to defend and secure our country without sacrificing these American values.”

Mayorkas is no stranger to working on America’s immigration system.

Mayorkas is one of the original architects of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which is at stake because of the previous administration. The Biden administration has made a promise to preserve DACA and to create a pathway to citizenship to the 11 million undocumented people living in the U.S.

President Biden has introduced legislation to reform the current immigration system. The legislation has a timeframe for all undocumented people in the U.S. to become citizens if they follow certains steps and meet certain criteria.

While Mayorkas got bipartisan support in the Senate confirmation, some Republicans did not like his work in immigration. Sen. Marco Rubio, a fellow Cuban, voted to opposed Mayorkas.

“Not only has Mayorkas pledged to undo the sensible protections put in place by the Trump Administration that ended the dangerous policy of catch and release, but his nomination is further evidence that the Biden Administration intends to pursue a radical immigration agenda,” Sen. Rubio said in a statement.

READ: President Biden Introduces Legislation To Create Pathway To Citizenship For 11 Million Undocumented People

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Here Are The Executive Actions That President Biden Has Signed Since Taking Office Last Week

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Here Are The Executive Actions That President Biden Has Signed Since Taking Office Last Week

President Joe Biden has a lot of work ahead of him to dismantle some of former President Trump’s damaging orders. There are racist travel bans, necessarily harmful family separation policies, and the climate crisis all on the table that must be addressed. President Biden is doing just that and here are some of the orders he has signed to tackle the issues.

So far, President Biden has signed 40 executive orders that have reversed some of the worst Trump-era policies and regulations.

Update January 27, 2021

President Biden has signed multiple executive orders tackling different parts of the Covid-19 response.

Americans have been struggling to control the pandemic with minimal leadership from the federal government for almost a year. Local, county, and state governments have done their best without a unified federal response. President Biden, who inherited the mess from the previous administration, is tackling the pandemic headon.

President Biden spent his second day signing several Covid executive orders, which include:

  • Promoting Covid-19 safety in domestic and international travel.
  • Expanding access to Covid-19 treatments.
  • Promoting data-driven response to Covid-19.
  • Supporting states’ use of National Guard in Covid-19 response.
  • Strengthening public health supply chain.
  • Establishing the Covid-19 Health Equity Task Force.
  • Supporting the reopening and continuing operation of schools.
  • Promoting workplace safety amid the pandemic.
  • Establishing a Covid-19 pandemic testing board.

On his third day in office, President Biden focused on benefits for the American people.

Covid-19 has decimated the workforce and people are struggling to make ends meet. Evictions are looming nationwide as people have gone months with no assistance from the federal government, a stark contrast from the rest of the developed world.

President Biden is working to undo the issues that have stood in the way of American people getting their assistance with executive orders including:

  • Expanding food assistance programs.
  • Assisting veterans with debt.
  • Guaranteeing unemployment insurance for workers who refuse work due to Covid-19.
  • Establishing “benefit delivery teams.”
  • Facilitating the delivery of stimulus payments.
  • Address Covid-19 economic relief.
  • Empowering federal workers and contractors.

The president signed other orders on the sixth and seventh days of his administration tackling myriad issues.

President Biden promised the American people that he would work quickly to undo the damage created by the last four years. It is a promise that he has made good on. He has tackled several societal issues that has hindered Americans from living free and full lives.

President Biden’s executive actions here included:

  • Reversing the transgender military ban.
  • Reinstating Covid-19 travel restrictions.
  • Promoting the ‘Buy American’ agenda.
  • Calling for the evaluation of Trump’s housing policies.
  • Ending the reliance on private prisons.
  • Reaffirming the commitment to tribal sovereignty.
  • Denouncing anti-Asian discrimination and xenophobia.

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The border wall on the southern border is done, y’all.

President Biden is saving the taxpayers billions of dollars by halting the construction of President Trump’s border wall. The border wall is one of former President Trump’s several unfulfilled promises at the expense of the taxpayers.

Despite his unrelenting campaign, Mexico never paid a dime to the wall. President Biden’s action to halt the border wall is a humanitarian and conservationist move that will save billions of tax dollars. According to estimates, there would be $3.3 billion in unused funds in the projects accounts.

The emotionally devastating Muslim ban will finally come to an end.

Former President Trump famously put an end to travel from predominantly Muslim countries. The order arbitrarily excluded a group of people based on their religion. The order that has kept families apart for years is finally coming to an end thanks to President Biden.

President Biden’s ation will bring families together and safeguards the rights of religious freedom. The ban has kept spouses separated, children apart from parents, and caused real damage. There is more to be done to make up for the stain on American history and the action is the first step.

The Keystone XL Pipeline is toast.

We all remember the terrifying scenes of Native people being brutalized by federal officials under Trump’s command. President Biden will make sure that the permit for the pipeline is revoked and put an end to a project that has been devastating the Native community. Activists have been fighting for years to get this done.

Undocumented people will have to be included in census counts.

President Biden is getting rid of the Trump administration’s terrible policy of ignoring undocumented people in the census. There have been several arguments by officials that the move would work to undermine certain states. The policy would take federal money away from states that did not support the former president and have high undocumented populations.

President Biden is going to preserve DACA.

More than 600,000 people benefit from the Obama-era program. Former President Trump waged a war against DACA and Dreamers for political points. Most Americans support DACA and a pathway to citizenship for DACA beneficiaries. With the new executive action, President Biden will instruct the federal government to restore the program to its fullest.

There is still a lawsuit the Biden administration will have to fight. The lawsuit challenging DACA’s legality was filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

In total, President Biden will sign 17 executive actions that will roll back several issues created by the previous administration.

“Today, hours after taking the oath of office, President-elect Biden will take a historic number of actions to deliver immediate relief for families across America that are struggling in the face of converging crises. He will sign a combination of executive orders, memoranda, directives, and letters to take initial steps to address these crises, including by changing the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, providing economic relief, tackling climate change, and advancing racial equity,” reads a statement from the Biden-Harris Transition Team. “President-elect Biden will take action — not just to reverse the gravest damages of the Trump administration — but also to start moving our country forward. These actions are bold, begin the work of following through on President-elect Biden’s promises to the American people, and, importantly, fall within the constitutional role for the president.”

READ: President Joe Biden’s And Vice President Kamala Harris’ Inauguration Represented America

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