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Undocumented students build community

Members of the Blue Group at Western Washington University perform a human knot as an icebreaking activity during a meeting on campus to discuss the rights of undocumented students at the university, Feb. 17. // Photo by Daniel Liddicoet
For undocumented students, stacks of paperwork and complex government programs stand between them and an affordable college career. Add those pressures to the already daunting social and academic obligations that come with being a student, and getting through four years of college can become a daunting, lonely task. Blue Group hopes to make it a little bit easier. Blue Group serves as a support group for undocumented students on campus. It also provides opportunities for allies to learn about the issues these students face, and how they can help, said Maria Prieto, Blue Group president. Blue Group became an official AS Club in November, and joined the Ethnic Student Center in January, said Emmanuel Camarillo, Blue Group’s adviser. The club consists of about 15 to 20 members at this time, said Prieto. Blue Group formed after a coalition gathering data on undocumented students came to Western and asked some undocumented students to participate in a focus group, Prieto said. She remembers seeing familiar faces from around campus gathered in the group, though she had never realized they were also undocumented, she said. They formed a relationship that eventually turned into Blue Group, she said. “One part of why this club was started was basically because students didn’t know each other,” Camarillo said. ”It allowed for students to come together into a safer space and get to know who else is kind of similar to them but also have support going through college.” For Blue Group member Victoria Matey, the club is an important resource for answering complicated questions. “I feel very lucky to have found the Blue Group and that they know what I’m going through and they know how to support me,” Matey said. Matey has been at Western and part of Blue Group for two months. She said she grew up with people who tried to sympathize with her about being undocumented, but felt they never really understood her or her situation. “Being in a room with people who have busted their asses through high school doing everything they can to be in college and succeed even though we have no guarantee of being here in the future,” Matey said. “That just says a lot and motivates me all in its own.”
Members of the Blue Group at Western Washington University stand together during a meeting on campus to discuss the rights of undocumented students at the university, Feb. 17. // Photo by Daniel Liddicoet
Beyond working to connect and support undocumented students, the club gives members a chance to do scholarship searches and conducts workshops to fill out the Washington Application for State Financial Aid and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, Prieto said. DACA gives certain people who came to the U.S. as a child the opportunity to defer removal from the country for two years and makes them eligible for work authorization, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The WASFA is an application for undocumented citizens in Washington to apply for student financial aid, according to Ready Set Grad, a project of the Washington Student Achievement Council. Matey expressed the importance of Blue Group in working on both of those applications. Other universities in Washington have similar clubs for undocumented students. The name Blue Group is modeled after the University of Washington’s club which is called Purple Group and Washington State University’s club called Crimson Group, all named after their school colors, Prieto said. “I just really like reaching out to others and helping them because I know it’s hard going through this myself since a freshman, and not having that,” Prieto said. “I know it’s really important to have that kind of support here,” she said. Blue Group meets Wednesdays at 5 p.m. in CEED, Miller Hall 005.

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