“Let’s Do Something About It”: Building and Sustaining Institutional Support for Undocumented Community College Students
Community colleges are home to more immigrant and undocumented students than any other sector in higher education. Many California community colleges have established Undocumented Student Resource Centers (USRCs) to centralize student support efforts for immigrant students. They serve as a hub of services and information for undocumented students and the general campus community—although often with limited resources. The focus of this study was to explore the sensemaking process of institutional agents (e.g., coordinators, deans, vice presidents, and district administrators) at the Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD) when building and working toward the sustainability of the Undocumented Student Resource Centers, given the limited resources available to California community colleges and the limitations of immigration policies. Interviews of institutional agents revealed how the campuses and district made decisions about the centers, how colleges prioritized services in addressing undocumented students’ needs, how the centers differed on each campus, and cross-district collaboration efforts. The institutional agents described how the immigrant rights movement, students, and advocates have long pressured the colleges to address the needs of undocumented students and indicated the role of the USRC institutional agent is to address institutional barriers and identify resources. According to the institutional agents, the primary feature of the USRC is increasingly identified by the role of the coordinator. To build the sustainability of the USRC, the campus must prioritize the center by becoming “undocufriendly” campus-wide and allocating resources by aligning to new state funding initiatives. Additionally, the institutional agents indicated that the creation and building of sustainability for Undocumented Student Resource Centers involves college organizational change practices, illustrating that developing institutional change is labor intensive and more resources are needed to sustain such change.