College Cancels Legal Clinic
February 27, 2020
Taken on Feb. 25, The Dream Center is available weekdays to answer questions and provide support for undocumented students.Last month, the supreme court approved a ‘public ruling’ charge to go into effect Feb. 24., which means when immigrants apply for legal status, the state will be looking for many characteristics using the public charge. Public charge is when an individual is likely to become primarily dependent on the government for subsistence. Public charge includes use of food stamps and housing vouchers. With the exception of Illinois, this rule will be implemented all across the United States. The rule is set to reshape the legal immigration procedure, thus making it harder for lower income immigrants to obtain a legal status. Critics have called it ‘wealth test’, but for the students of Skyline College, it seems more than that.
While federal financial aid (such as Pell Grants and student loans) and state-based financial aid (such as the California Dream Act, Cal grants, institutional grants, dream loans and scholarships) are not included in the new public charge, Skyline students still are concerned.
People could be affected by public charge ruling, but it is not overarching. Students have been dropping in college’s Dream center, thinking student aid is a financial benefit and could affect their legal status. Use of any public benefit will not automatically make you a public charge. Immigration officials will look at other circumstances determining how likely you are to become or remain a public charge in future.
Although every case differs from one another, consensus in the immigrant community is that undocumented people should speak with an attorney before removing themselves from any benefits they are receiving. Maria Segarra Gaudio, who was a part time instructor and a supervising attorney at Skyline College’s legal clinic, is not available this semester. Despite the fact that every single one of her openings for appointments were booked last semester, the college has decided not to fund the legal clinic. Skyline College previously approved money for the legal clinic in tandem with her teaching work.
“I believe the clinic is an ideal example of what Skyline College could be to students and the community: a place where we put our social justice values into action and where we use our resources and positions of responsibility to work on the behalf of the vulnerable and underserved.” said Jesse W. Raskin, an associate professor who teaches paralegal studies at Skyline College. “I remain hopeful that the college and the district will see this too and choose to fund the clinic.” Students currently are being referred to Canada College’s legal clinic.
Another resolution affirming the San Mateo County Community College District’s commitment to protecting undocumented students and student privacy states, “Provide opportunities for students and their families, employees and their families, and members of the community to know about and understand their legal rights and, when appropriate, provide referrals to legal services that provide such assistance.”
“There is lots of funding available for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program renewals,” said Pamela Ortiz, staff assistant at the Dream center. “Students should come to us for their renewal application — application fees will be fully funded. Some of our students are considering dropping out of school as they fear they may lose their ability to work in the near future.”
While the future of Dreamers lies in the hands of the Supreme Court, Skyline College is failing to protect its students.