There are around 250,000 undocumented immigrants living in the Bay Area. With the political tension surrounding the US government’s attitude towards undocumented people, programs like the Dreamers Project can have an immeasurable effect on young people. The Dreamers Project is an organization run through the University of California (UC) Berkeley that facilitates mentor and mentee relationships between Berkeley High School (BHS) and UC Berkeley students. The club focuses on helping undocumented students find their paths to college, and includes resources such as college visits, volunteering, and a shadowing experience at UC Berkeley.
A UC Berkeley student and leader of the organization spoke to how she believes this program impacts those who are in it. “The purpose of the Dreamers Project is to help undocumented, immigrant, and ally students to get to college or higher education … through mentorship,” she said.
The Dreamers Project is focused on helping students access the opportunities they deserve, regardless of their citizenship status. The organization is available for anyone to join as long as they are accepting, and honor the purpose of the club. Even though Berkeley is a sanctuary city, there is still a lack of support for undocumented people, due to which, students interviewed for this article requested to be kept anonymous to protect their identities. The immense value of the Dreamers Project is the fact that BHS students can count on the club for the support that the city often fails to provide.
“I do think that compared to other cities, Berkeley is attempting to ensure that the city remains a safe place, such as by reaffirming Berkeley’s status as a sanctuary city,” said one member of the club. “I do, however, believe that there should be more programs for our undocumented students that address prominent issues that they face, such as educational barriers and mental health issues.”
For many students in the program, the biggest obstacles they will face in their academic careers revolve around the college admissions process. They plan to address this head-on by guiding students through their college searches. “Our main focus for the spring semester is to take our students on college trips, so that they can get to see and experience different colleges,” said one of the leaders of the project.
The Dreamers Project has undeniable importance to students. “It brings me assistance and guidance to help me meet my goals and go to college,” said one member of the club. Another student added that it “provides a safe space for undocumented students.” Nevertheless, they both agreed that BHS doesn’t always replicate that environment.
“I feel like [teachers] think that the undocumented students aren’t in the room, like outside, like foreigners. The other day, we were talking about how in senior year they’re going to help us vote, but what about the undocumented students? They never talk about that,” said one BHS student and Dreamers Project member. Comments like these that lack acknowledgment of undocumented students address the resources teachers offer to students with US citizenship, but when there are challenges for undocumented students, teachers don’t equip themselves to offer that help.
It is important for the people who students look up to be aware of the ideas they bring up and the resources they provide, especially when they don’t always include everyone. “There’s a lot of support for citizens, but then undocumented students are just left out,” the student added, “And that’s why I joined this club.”
At a time when undocumented students have to juggle being under the microscope and blatantly disregarded at the same time, the Dreamers Project holds a unique place where students can let go of societal constraints, and focus on their futures.