New student organization advocates for undocumented students

Undocumented Students for Student Education Equity launched on Thursday

A group of five ASU students launched the University's chapter of Undocumented Students for Education Equity organization on Thursday on the Tempe campus. 

The co-founders consist of undocumented and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) individuals who strive to educate students and the broader ASU community about DACA and the resources available, said one of the organizers.

Vasthy Lamadrid, one of the co-founders and the chief of staff, was born in Chiapas, Mexico. She is a senior at ASU pursuing a political science degree as well as a certificate in teaching.

“The organization was built out of this need for us to find a space where all of us could feel supported, where we could feel safe,” she said.

Oscar Hernandez, co-founder and treasurer of the organization, is also from Chiapas and has been involved with this organization since 2014.

During the launch event, Hernandez said DACA is not a path to citizenship nor does it enable the individual to apply for FAFSA. 

“You have to renew it every two years, and depending on what state you live in, you may get in-state tuition,” he said.

Hernandez, a public policy junior, said there were multiple other individuals and organizations who have been fighting for the same reasons. He said it all began with Proposition 300 in 2006, which stated that undocumented students cannot get in-state tuition.

“That hurt a lot of students when it first got passed and approved because they were going to school and struggling to pay for in-state tuition and then it got taken away,” he said.

ASU students back then were affected immediately, Hernandez said, and ASU helped a couple of them with some private fundraising.

Edder Diaz Martinez, one of the organization's co-founders, is a 26-year-old junior at ASU studying journalism. He is from Oaxaca, Mexico and moved here because his mother saw more opportunities in the U.S., he said.

“I have gotten involved, and made sure minority communities vote, making sure we have a comprehensive immigration reform passed and of course the Dream Act,” he said.

Belen Sisa, a political science junior, is a co-founder and advocacy director. She came to the U.S. from Buenos Aires, Argentina as a 6-year-old.

Sisa, who gained prominence after a tweet showing her pay her taxes went viral, said that because of her undocumented status, she'd faced adversity to go into higher education.

“I remember telling my adviser that I was undocumented and I still wanted to go to college and he told me, ‘I am sorry I cannot do anything because I don’t know how to handle that situation.’”

Sisa explained how scary that experience was as an 18-year-old preparing to go to college. She said she got lucky because that summer, DACA was announced and when she became involved.

“I started realizing that that executive action wasn’t made because President Obama wanted to make it, it was made because brave, young people made that decision happen.”

Anita Tarango is the director of outreach at the Educational Outreach and Student Services and Overseas DREAMzone at ASU. Tarango said having an organization like Undocumented Students for Education Equity is a useful addition for students.

“I think there are a lot of great things about having a student organization,” she said. 

“The first thing it will add is peer support for students who previously felt isolated because of their status. They will offer an organized student body with which to collaborate with the administration here at ASU to better enhance their experience.”

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