PULLMAN, Wash. – Undocumented students at Washington State University face financial and emotional hardship. Gladiola Banuelos, 19, has found community at the center of undocumented initiatives, and the ASWSU senate is working to compensate students who cannot work.
“It affects me because I didn’t choose to be in this position, but there’s not much I can do,” Banuelos said.
His family resides in Chelan. Washington, but his birthplace in Mexico.
She was only two years old when her parents decided to move from Tecate, Baja, California to the United States. His parents’ financial situation was always difficult.
Banuelos’ father works in construction while her mother does housework, but she and her siblings have never been forced to work.
His father always pushed for education.
“It was hard to see my parents sometimes. Our culture was so different, I felt out of place every time I wanted to speak Spanish,” Banuelos said. “They always expected us to be the best in school…to go to college and be this great person one day.”
According to a 2020 report by the Alliance of Presidents, approximately 450,000 undocumented students have enrolled in post-secondary education.
Yet, students face many hurdles that pose serious challenges in their studies, such as getting a job, finding scholarships, and an uncertain future.
Banuelos said some of those hardships, including the inability to work, “felt unfair at times.”
She is not alone; Undocumented students across the United States are also struggling to secure apartment leases and acquire driver’s licenses.
Most forms of government-sponsored financial aid are not available to undocumented students, causing stress for both the student and their parents.
Programs that help combat these challenges have been implemented at California State Universities and Washington State University.
Undocumented Initiative Director Marcela Pattinson has helped establish a community that provides support and emotional openness to undocumented students of all nationalities.
The center on the fourth floor of the university’s Compton Union Building offers financial, educational, and mental health support.
The program addresses the challenges faced by undocumented students, boosting their chances of completing university and, most importantly, recognizing all facets of being undocumented.
“If you have independent equity, if you are an independent student and if you are undocumented or your partner or your boyfriend, girlfriend, whatever. This is the space in which you can be recognized to be you “, Pattinson said.
Although these touching words reflect the “hopeful” atmosphere of the center, many undocumented students find it difficult to earn money because they are not allowed to work. Banuelos is not alone; federal law prohibits undocumented immigrants who do not hold DACA from working.
Washington State offers WASFA, which is state financial aid. Banuelos can pay for her education with state assistance, but has to rely on her parents for groceries and occasional rent when she cannot afford the costs.
“If I weren’t undocumented, I could work right now and I could earn money and [and be] able to pay for everything on my own,” Banuelos said. “Although I have paid school, I still rely on my parents sometimes.
AWSSU President Jacob Martinez said, “Kiana and I will do our best to get undocumented students paid. We’ve seen all the hard work they put in and the time they put in. helping students, and we think they should be compensated.”
The student senate plans to work with the center and work to find payment for undocumented students on campus. Until then, Banuelos’ only source of compensation will be a stipend earned through the university’s “Community, Equity and Social Justice” mentorship program.
She qualifies for the allowance because it is considered an allowable expense by the Internal Revenue Service.
Next fall, Banuelos will mentor incoming freshmen at the Center for African American Students.
Learn more about paperless initiatives:
WSU students who seek the support provided by the Center for Undocumented Initiatives have the opportunity to obtain information about the university and its financial resources. The center offers several programs, including “La Bienvenida”, a Spanish-language orientation offered to new WSU Pullman students and their parents. “Mariposas Poderosas” (autumn semester) and Creative Care (spring semester). Both programs emphasize resilience skills and encourage self-care. Other opportunities such as consulting, training and leadership development are offered.