M. Terry/SFVS CSUN President Erika D. Beck, Change Reaction President Wade Trimmer and LA Councilmember John Lee.

DACA (Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals) students at Cal State University Northridge who may be struggling to pay mandated federal government fees to maintain their immigration status are getting help.

A $150,000 “Angel Fund” grant from The Change Reaction, a nonprofit foundation based in Sherman Oaks, was awarded to the university to help undocumented students pay the required filing fees and renew their status in the federal government’s DACA program.

Qualifying students can request up to $495 to cover the filing costs. 

The donation was announced on Monday, Nov. 29, at CSUN.

Daniela Barcenas, manager of the university’s DREAM (Dreamers, Resources, Advocacy and Mentorship) Center, said the donation comes in the form of three grants, of which the first was presented to the center “about a month ago.”

Each grant of $50,000 can pay the renewal fees of 300 DACA students, Barcenas said.

“We are still in the process of rolling it out, and working out our application process,” Barcenas said. “We’ll probably have the first funding [available] in the next two weeks.”

“Since our inception in 2014, the DREAM Center at CSUN has served the largest number of undocumented students among the CSUs. Currently we serve 1,200 students that we know of; there’s definitely more undocumented students on campus. This is huge for them.”

The temporary aspect of their immigration status is an ongoing issue for DACA students. Some did not always realize or know exactly how often they had to renew their permits — or had the funds to do so — and found themselves vulnerable to deportation.

Irvin Rendon, a student business assistant at the DREAM Center, said the funding would “help shed light on a struggle that many undocumented students face to prosper in this country. Many feel they are on their economic journey on their own, and they have to figure out everything alone.

“[With the funding], we at the center will have the opportunity to further help our students relieve some of the financial stress that comes from having to renew the permit. Students will no longer have to decide between buying books or paying for the permit. Thanks to the Angel Fund, students will not feel all alone.”

Jenny Minjung, a center supervisor who described herself as a “former undocumented student,” said she personally knows of “the burden” of having to renew one’s DACA status every two years.

“Having this fund will alleviate the stress and financial burden for so many CSUN undocumented students,” Minjung said. “DACA students are only a small fraction of the undocumented population. While this funding is providing specific resources for undocumented students, we must also fight and advocate for undocumented students who have no protection or resources. Our community thrives on unconditional support.”

Change Reaction President Wade Trimmer said the foundation, created by Greg and Jodi Perlman and other Los Angeles-based donors in 2019, was doing similar support work for DACA students with CHIRLA when it learn about the need at CSUN.

“We know from working with CSUN in the past that CSUN has a large number of DACA recipients. It just made sense to us to come directly to the source and ask how we could help out at the DREAM Center here, and really impact the students right now,” Trimmer said.

“We call it a ‘movement’ more than a foundation. It’s a movement of wealthy Angelenos who have come together to say we want to see our money at work in our neighbors’ lives and in peoples’ lives….We work with over 150 organizations in Los Angeles — everything from domestic violence to veterans. All these different issues our neighbors face, we want to be there with the right resources at the right time.”

CSUN President Dr. Erika D. Beck, Ph.D, said the donation would have a “tremendous impact on our students who really need that support.”

“With this donation, our DACA students will continue to have expanded opportunities for a brighter and more learned future as they earn their academic degrees and continue to enrich the economic, civic and social prosperity of our entire community,” Beck said.

“Navigating college can be challenging for many students; but our DACA students face a unique set of challenges, and covering their DACA fees is one less issue they need to navigate so they can focus on their studies and their futures.”

Los Angeles City Councilmember John Lee, a CSUN alum and in whose 12th district the campus is located, said, “Cal State Northridge is one of the finest public universities, and one of the most diverse universities we have in this country. And we all know that accessing higher education enables our DREAMers to achieve their dreams. It also becomes an economic and social generator; it helps not only [the DREAMers] but our entire society.

“This partnership is the type of gift that we know will keep on giving.”

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