Dr. Elena Macias educates students on the benefits of the AB-540 program

Bianca Martinez

An audience comprised of staff and students were present in the Teleconference Center to receive an in-depth explanation of the AB-540 program and the evolution of citizenship policies throughout the history of the United States.

The event was held on Thursday, Oct. 13 and the audience listened while the guest speaker for the workshop, Dr. Elena Macias, presented a Power Point about the main purpose of the AB-540 program and also discussed past policies and laws that have been either detrimental or beneficial to both documented and undocumented immigrants.

The assembly bill program allows undocumented students, who meet the necessary specific criteria, the ability to pay for in-state tuition for community colleges and universities in California ultimately allowing these students to attend said institutions.

Some of the criteria for eligibility includes the following:

  • The applicant must have been enrolled and attended a California high school and attained academic credits for a minimum of three years
  • Must have also attended a California elementary or middle school for a minimum of three years
  • Must have attained a high school diploma or GED

For students who are currently at a non-legal citizenship status, the applicant must have filed an affidavit with a higher education institution notifying that he or she has already filed to legalize citizenship status.

Students can apply for the AB-540 program simply by filling out the assembly bill form which is available at the Cerritos College Admissions and Records website then filing the form with the Admissions and Records Office here on campus.

However, according to statistics presented by Dr. Macias, it states that the amount of returning and current applicants for the AB-540 program has decreased quite considerably in the past school year.

Macias ascertains that this is due to the stigma that is attached with being an undocumented immigrant in the United States and the fear of being outed as such and ultimately deported.

He states what is needed to be done by staff and students and what must be taken into consideration in order to ensure a safe environment for undocumented students.

“We need to understand the biases that have influenced immigration policies since the 1800s such as exclusion, racism, fear, ignorance and the more recent criminalization of immigrants,” he said.

Macias went on to say that faculty and staff is capable of creating a safe environment and squashing a campus climate that may be intimidating for undocumented students by acknowledging the AB-540 program and comprehending that undocumented students have the right to an education and are here to stay.

AB-540 and Puente Counselor Rosa Carrillo stated possible future plans for the program and Cerritos campus, “We would like to have a resource center for students to feel safe and get answers for any questions that they may have.”