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Dreamers conference, though virtual, extends its reach

What undocumented students have accomplished and how they can find support are among conference's important topics.
Wed Nov 18, 2020
Students from Luther Burbank High School in Sacramento were among participants in the 2018 version of the Keeping the Dream Alive conference. This year, though virtual, the conference will continue its work to support undocumented students and provide resources to that end. (Sacramento State/Erica Perez)

By Cynthia Hubert

Undocumented students are the focus of Sacramento State’s “Keeping the Dream Alive” virtual conference this week.

The fifth annual conference, scheduled for Thursday and Friday, Nov. 19-20, is hosted by the University’s Dreamer Resource Center. Participants can register and find more information on the Keeping the Dream Alive webpage.

Students and educators, as well as counselors, attorneys and others who work with scholars who are affected by their immigration status, are invited to attend. Registration is free for undocumented high school and college students in California. Cost for others is $100.

Various speakers, panels and sessions will highlight the accomplishments of undocumented students and explore interventions, programs, curricula and innovative practices that promote their academic, personal and professional success.

The conference will be entirely online this year because of concerns about COVID-19. The change to virtual presentation created new challenges for organizers, said Erik Ramirez, the Dreamer Resource Center’s program coordinator.

The virtual format, however, also has “allowed us to make the conference accessible to folks across the United States,” Ramirez said. About 250 people are expected to take part, including attendees from across California and in Texas, Arizona, Michigan and Utah, he said.

The opening keynote speaker will be Lizbeth Mateo, a successful immigration attorney in Los Angeles, who is undocumented.

Mateo was 14 when she and her parents came to the United States from Mexico in 2000. In 2013, she went back into Mexico and with eight other people protested at the U.S.-Mexico border to push for changes in immigration laws.

Because she had left the country to participate in the protest, her application for DACA protection was denied. Mateo graduated from Santa Clara University’s law school in 2017, and now has her own law office. She is the subject of a documentary, The Undocumented Lawyer, which is scheduled to premiere on HBO Latino next year.

The conference will feature information and speakers addressing subjects such as:

  • Delivering legal services to students whose immigration status is uncertain: During the past year, legal services were made available to CSU students, faculty and staff members, and their families. The session will highlight best practices, present discussion on how information can be safely shared, and provide suggestions for how colleges outside the CSU can endeavor to provide legal services to their campuses.
  • The effects of bilingual and English immersion education in K-12 schools: Featuring speakers from Sac State and the McGeorge School of Law, and a group of undergraduate students, panelists will share experiences and offer strategies for obtaining more resources for immigrant scholars.
  • Transitioning to life as a first-generation professional: The session will explore life as a first-generation individual in the working world, particularly when undocumented status is a factor. Panelists will share their experiences and offer recommendations to better prepare students for life after college.
  • Testimonies of three undocumented Latinas in their pursuit of doctoral degrees: The presenters will highlight challenges and obstacles they encountered as undocumented Latinas while striving for their doctoral degrees, and the strategies they used to overcome those barriers.
  • Increasing undocumented student visibility and sense of belonging: Suggestions for creating an environment in which all students can experience “compassion, acceptance, and reassurance” during their college journeys.

Registration continues until the conference begins Thursday morning. Half of all registration fees go to Sac State’s Dreamer Emergency Fund, which supports undocumented students who are having unexpected financial issues.