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Return To Mexico Now Possible For Students

Published: September 15, 2014

Two CSULB students were recognized recently with scholarships during the first U.S. visit by Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto at an historic event headlined by Gov. Jerry Brown, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Mexico’s Ambassador Eduardo Medina Mora and 11 Mexican governors. The honor coincided with National Hispanic Heritage Month which runs Sept. 15-Oct. 15.

CSULB seniors Ana Barbara Roman and Jaime Jorge were among the 15 students who traveled with Chicano and Latino Studies’ lecturer Armando Vazquez-Ramos on a visit to Mexico during spring break. The trip was sponsored by Chicano and Latino Studies’ California-Mexico Policy and Higher Education class funded by College of Liberal Arts’ Dean David Wallace and the IRA Fund.

“Roman and Jorge are the first two AB-540 students who have been able to return to Mexico for an educational purpose, as provided by the DACA regulations that grants ‘dreamers’ temporary legal status and eligibility to a driver’s license and social security number, allowing them to drive and work legally until congress acts upon comprehensive immigration reform,” said Vazquez-Ramos, who joined the university in 1988.

Assembly Bill 540, signed into law in 2001, created a new exemption from the payment of non-resident tuition for certain non-resident students who graduated from high school in California and received a diploma. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is a memorandum authored by the Obama administration in 2012 that directs U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to practice prosecutorial discretion towards some individuals who immigrated to the U.S. as children and are in the country illegally.

“This is a landmark precedent that I am certain will open the doors to other AB-540 students,” said Vazquez-Ramos. “It creates opportunities for students like Ana and Jaime. For them to return to Mexico for humanitarian reasons or educational purposes gives them the chance to maintain relations with family. Imagine the frustration at not being able to bid farewell to a dying relative. When you are in the U.S. without documents, going back to Mexico is impossible because you know you may have to go through hell to come back in. Young people like Ana and Jaime were brought (here) through no choice of their own but now are as American as anyone.”

Jorge came to CSULB from his home in Victorville and is scheduled to graduate this December with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish. “But I’m not stopping there,” he said. “I will go for my master’s or Ph.D. in intercultural studies.”

Jorge said he felt grateful and honored to have the opportunity to be recognized for his scholarship especially by the President of Mexico and Gov. Brown.

“I am very grateful and humbled to be one of the first AB-540 students to go to Mexico especially for educational purposes,” he said. “Having the opportunity to study in Mexico has opened my eyes to a whole different perspective in the importance of intercultural studies. I’m really thankful that President Obama gave us DACA because it sure has opened many doors for me and for a lot of other undocumented students.”

Jorge believes he was destined to attend CSULB. “Now that I’m here, CSULB has allowed me to expand my horizon, with the help of its amazing professors, advisers and newfound friends,” he said. “My career goals are to become a medical interpreter/translator and also to be involved in a social justice movement or a non-profit organization that deals with racism, education, immigration, sexual abuse and gender equality.”

Roman was shocked at first to be included in the scholarship program. “I had only heard about it a week before,” she recalled. “When Prof. Vazquez-Ramos called to tell me the good news, especially that I would receive the award from the President of Mexico, my emotions shot through the roof. All the hard work had paid off. It was such an honor to meet the President of Mexico and California Gov. Jerry Brown. Not a lot of students ever get that opportunity.”

Roman expects to graduate in December with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology, a second Bachelor of Arts in in Chicano and Latino Studies and a minor in Africana Studies. When she graduated from Long Beach’s Wilson High School in 2007, she began a long journey toward her career goals in education and the law. “I don’t want to give up either,” she said.

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PHOTO COURTESY OF ARMANDO VAZQUEZ-RAMOS
Armando Vazquez-Ramos (c) with Ana Roman and Jaime Jorge.

Roman is glad she chose CSULB. “It was the only school I applied to after years of driving past the campus with my parents while they predicted I would go there someday. I had my doubts,” she recalled. “But I am so lucky to have met people like Prof. Vazquez-Ramos. There is a lot of support on this campus for undocumented students. I love Cal State Long Beach. Even though I’m moving on, I’ll always look back on an amazing experience.”

Vazquez-Ramos is pleased with the students’ achievements, not only because they have established a precedent, but also the recognition received from the Mexican authorities, including the President of Mexico.

“What I envision for CSULB is that this campus could become a leader for a CSU California-Mexico program, similar to the UC’s Mexico Initiative, under the agreement signed by Governor Brown during his recent trip to Mexico,” he said. “I’m proposing on both sides of the border, to fund for us to take 100 ‘dreamers’ to Mexico for two months next summer. The word is getting out. Si se puede!”