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

DACA Advocates Shut Down Joe Biden At Last Night’s Democratic Debate, Here’s The Message They Delivered Loud And Clear

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DACA Advocates Shut Down Joe Biden At Last Night’s Democratic Debate, Here’s The Message They Delivered Loud And Clear

ABC News / YouTube

Last night, NBC hosted the Democratic Debates, where presidential candidates hashed out their policy differences and tried to win over the American people. Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Julian Castro, Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke, Pete Buttigieg, Andrew Yang, and Amy Klobuchar were the only candidates to make it to the third debate as the primary narrows down. 

With Univision’s Jorge Ramos as moderator, Latinx issues and voices were represented and centered for once. However, the evening was not without controversy with difficult immigration conversations, crashing protestors, and with candidates like Joe Biden and Julian Castro getting into tense exchanges. 

I don’t know about you, but I was proud to be Latinx last night, though. 

DACA Advocates crash the Democratic Debate.

If you watched the debates last night, you probably remember this moment. It was nearly two and half hours into the Democratic Debate when Joe Biden, who was already having a rough night, was asked a question about professional setbacks, only to be interrupted by a group of protestors. It was a bit strange. Biden tries to speak, but the protestors start chanting. If you were watching it live, at the time it was unclear who, what, or why the protestors were there. 

“We’re going to clear the protesters,” moderator George Stephanopoulos said as the chants began. “We’re sorry.”

The candidates remained on stage in silence and waited patiently. It was an uncomfortable moment, and the candidates chose not to engage. It was only after the fact that the protestors were reportedly DACA advocates. What they were chanting is still unconfirmed.

How did protestors get in? 

However, I do have some professional experience in this arena that begs more questions. This summer I was a part of a small organization called She The People, together we organized the first-ever presidential forum for women of color. We also partnered with NBC, who hosted the debates last night, and the HBCU Texas Southern University, which held the debates last night. 

The candidates who attended were Castro, Harris, Warren, Booker, Gabbard, Sanders, O’Rourke, and Klobuchar (Biden announced his candidacy literally the next day). I am sharing this because I know the level of security that is necessary to host an event like this at TSU, in fact, our forum had protestors too, however they didn’t manage to get in. What went wrong? 

Joe Biden quizzed on immigration by Jorge Ramos

Seasoned Mexican American journalist Jorge Ramos moderated on behalf of Univision. Homeboy did not come to let candidates get off easy on Latinx issues. 

“Are you prepared to say tonight that you and President Obama made a mistake about deportations? Why should Latinos trust you?” Ramos asked Biden. 

The Obama administration deported 3 million immigrants, more than any other administration in history. This is worthy of examination and criticism — but the treatment of those immigrants was nowhere near the utter cruelty compared to the Trump administration. Nevertheless, both policies are bad for Latinxs. 

Biden, who is under fire for seeming incoherent last night, had a long meandering response. 

“We didn’t lock people up in cages. We didn’t separate families. We didn’t do all of those things, number one,” he said.

 “Number two — number two, by the time— this is a president who came along with the DACA program. No one had ever done that before. This is the president that sent legislation to the desk saying he wants to find a pathway for the 11 million undocumented in the United States of America. This is a president who’s done a great deal. So I’m proud to have served with him.”

Julian Castro Wants Answers From Biden

Biden was repeatedly called out by Julian Castro for taking credit for Obama’s wins and disavowing Obama’s losses. Castro pointed out inconsistencies in Biden’s health plan.

“If you want Medicare, if you lose the job from your insurance — from your employer, you automatically can buy into this. You don’t have — no pre-existing condition can stop you from buying in,” Biden said. 

Castro said the difference between his and Biden’s plan was that you didn’t have to buy or opt-in to his, enrollment would be automatic. Then Biden claimed Americans wouldn’t have to buy or opt-in in after literally just saying they did. 

“Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago? Are you forgetting already what you said just two minutes ago? I mean, I can’t believe that you said two minutes ago that they had to buy in and now you’re saying they don’t have to buy in. You’re forgetting that,” Castro said before dropping the mic with, ” I’m fulfilling the legacy of Barack Obama, and you’re not.”

What’s notable from Ramos, Castro, and the protestors last night is becoming increasingly clear: Latinxs in America are fed up and we’re speaking to truth to power. 

The Bernie Sanders Campaign Did The Right Thing By Letting DACA Recipients Write His Immigration Policy

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The Bernie Sanders Campaign Did The Right Thing By Letting DACA Recipients Write His Immigration Policy

Ethan Miller / Getty Images

Democratic candidates are in full spring when it comes to releasing their policies and platforms on issues like gun control, climate change and health care, ahead of the 2020 election. One of the most divisive issues in the country right now is immigration and the legal battle over DACA. 

Many Democratic candidates have already released immigration policy plans that would allow  Dreamers, undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally by their guardians, a legal pathway to citizenship.  Just this week, we got a preview of what Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and his campaign team will be rolling in terms of immigration policy. 

Here’s what we know so far about the Sanders immigration plan that will be released “soon.”

In an interview with Hill TV, Belén Sisa, the campaign press secretary, made an announcement that the senator’s 2020 campaign will be releasing an immigration plan in the near future. The policy will be shaped by herself and two other staffers who are undocumented immigrants and recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. 

“We know that we can do better and I think that’s the greatest part of all, is that we have people who are experiencing these struggles that are taking part in that plan,” Sisa told Hill TV about the staffers and people outside the organization that are having input on the plan. 

Sisa, who is a DACA recipient, has been vocal about the expired program and other issues important to the immigrant community. She graduated from Arizona State University in 2018 where she was involved in multiple protests in favor of DACA and abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). 

It’s this commitment and well-documented track record in sticking up for immigrant rights from campaign staffers that Sisa says makes the Sanders campaign stand out from other candidates. 

Credit: @belensisaw / Twitter

According to Sisa, the campaign is going above and beyond when it comes to recruiting volunteers and senior-level staffers that come from the Latino community in the U.S. These recruitment efforts are being conducted through Spanish webinars for those people who are interested in being part of the campaign but can’t speak English. 

“It’s not just about ads, it’s not just about trying to knock on their door right before the primary,” Sisa said. “It’s about putting people who look like them on the campaign, it’s about making them feel like they’re capable.”

While we might not know too much about the entire Sanders’ immigration policy plan, a campaign page for the senator does give some clues. The page indicates that Sanders would grant amnesty to DACA recipients. His campaign would also look to create “a humane policy for those seeking asylum.” 

“Today, we say to the American people that instead of demonizing the undocumented immigrants in this country, we’re going to pass comprehensive immigration reform and provide a path toward citizenship. We’re going to provide legal status to the 1.8 million young people eligible for the DACA program and develop a humane border policy for those who seek asylum. No more snatching babies from the arms of their mothers.” the page reads.

Sanders would also plan to close down all migrant holding centers because of the “barbaric practice of family separation and detention of children in cages.” He also says that proper “independent oversight of relevant agencies within DHS” would be implemented. 

As we await the Sanders campaign immigration plan, we are also looking toward this fall where the Supreme Court is set to decide the future of DACA. 

Credit: @realdonaldtrump / Twitter

The Supreme Court is set to hear arguments this fall that will effectively decide the future of the Obama-era program. The Trump administration has made the argument that the program is unlawful and has questioned the overall legality of it.  

On Friday morning, President Trump tweeted about DACA and the pending case with the Supreme Court that will surely have an effect on the 2020 election. He hinted that if the Supreme Court does indeed end the program, a bipartisan deal would be made between Democrats and Republicans.  

“DACA will be going before the Supreme Court. It is a document that even President Obama didn’t feel he had the legal right to sign – he signed it anyway! Rest assured that if the SC does what all say it must, based on the law, a bipartisan deal will be made to the benefit of all!” Trump tweeted

As more polices are rolled out by presidential candidates, we can only wait and see what unfolds between now and November when it comes to DACA and immigration.  

READ: Arizona’s Republican Governor Applauds New Rule Giving DACA Students Discount On College Tuition