Cal State Bakersfield's Associate Vice President for Student Affairs James Drnek knows exactly how stressful and daunting the legal process can be for immigrants hoping to become United States citizens.
He experienced it firsthand with his partner, Francisco Patron.
"My partner is from Mexico, and he went through all the legal channels to become a citizen," Drnek said. "It was hellacious, horrendous."
Sometimes students — who already have plenty of stress and responsibilities placed on their shoulders from college, work and other obligations — have to worry about similar struggles. To assist CSUB students, employees and their families, the university is joining 21 other Cal State University campuses to provide free legal immigration services.
Attorneys from Immigrant Legal Defense will be available to assist with a variety of immigration services, such as seeking advice on how to help someone out of detention, paperwork for naturalization and citizenship, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals renewals and the difference between federal law and California law.
Hours by appointment are noon to 8 p.m. Tuesday and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday. Walk-in hours are 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesday and 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday. Walk-in hours are first come, first served. Services will be held at the Dream Resource Center/MAGEC on the first floor of Student Housing West Rohan Hall.
Priority will be given to undocumented students, staff and faculty.
Drnek said the 26 appointments scheduled for the next two days are full, but more dates will be available throughout the semester.
Other than this resource being offered as a social justice service, Drnek explained, it all comes back to student success.
"When a student has a significant barrier, it affects their ability to perform and be successful," he said. "It’s our hope that providing legal services to students and employees will help them be successful because they don’t have to worry about themselves or a family member dealing with immigration issues."
Currently, services will take place two days every month this semester: Oct. 8 and 9, Nov. 12 and 13 and Dec. 10 and 11. Appointments can be made at https://calendly.com/csubdreamcenter/legal.
Drnek noted the university is looking to add more dates in the future.
Services are also limited to CSUB students, faculty, staff and their immediate family members, and there are no plans to make them available to the Bakersfield community.
It is estimated that approximately 9,500 CSU students are undocumented and receive AB 540 waivers — which allows eligible undocumented, legal permanent resident and U.S. citizen students to pay in-state tuition at public colleges and universities — across its 23 campuses, according to the CSU website.
One of CSUB President Lynnette Zelezny first decisions when she arrived to campus last year was to provide funding to student resources, Drnek explained, and make sure students and employees know they can feel safe on campus.
"It’s important for people to know they’re welcomed and valued," Drnek added.
For more information, visit www2.calstate.edu/csu-system/news/Pages/California-State-University-to-Roll-Out-Delivery-of-Immigration-Legal-Services-for-Students-and-Employees.aspx or contact the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs at 661-654-2161.