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The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

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The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

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Leslie Marin Juarez becomes a new student programs advisor

Callahan Morgan
Dream Center Student Program Advisor Leslie Marin reads “Dreamers” by Yuyi Morales in her office in the Center for Equity and Social Justice (CC-228) on Oct. 13 at City College in Santa Barbara, Calif. As a first-generation dreamer, Marin brings experience to her new position as a full-time Student Program Advisor.

When Leslie Marin Juarez was a student at City College, the resources available for undocumented students extended little beyond assistance with applications for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. 

Six years after she began her studies at City College in 2016, Juarez is now working in an official capacity towards remedying this gap in services as the student programs advisor for the college’s newly-opened Dream Center.

In her first four weeks of starting up the Dream Center, Juarez has already handled more than 60 cases assisting undocumented students access help and resources for various situations. She has also planned several activities for the Week of Undocumented Action that will begin on Monday, Oct. 17, including booking Rafael Agustin — a writer for the CW’s “Jane the Virgin” and current CEO of the Latino Film Institute — as a guest speaker for the Dream Center on Oct. 18.

Before this role, Juarez held positions in City College’s Extended Opportunity Programs and Services and with the SBCC Foundation. She graduated from City College in 2019, and then from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2021 with degrees in sociology.

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Juarez attributed her diving-head-first approach to the new position in part due to her own status as an undocumented person who benefited from DACA. DACA is an administrative program put in place by the Obama Administration in 2012 that shielded those who had been brought into the country illegally as children from deportation, and allowed them to study at public universities and obtain work legally in the United States.

“It was a day that I clearly remember, and a day where I received hope for the first time in a long time,” Juarez said, recounting the day DACA was announced. “I knew that it was a temporary protection, but it was something better than what I had before. It meant that I was going to be able to study [at City College] — I was going to be temporarily protected from deportation and have the ability to work.”

Juarez herself came to the United States from Mexico with her parents and older sister when she was a year old and has spent the vast majority of her life in Santa Barbara.

It is through these experiences that Juarez hopes to better connect with undocumented students, who she says often don’t access resources — such as those offered at the Dream Center — out of concern that revealing their status could make them and their families future targets for deportation.

“I want to be able to ask students what it is they need from me, because I know what it feels like to not have a safe place to be able to ask questions or simply just talk about your lived experience,” Juarez said. “It’s very difficult for [undocumented students] to ask for help because a lot of the information is super delicate, and you want to make sure that you’re talking to someone who’s trustworthy that makes you feel comfortable.”

Aside from the immediate actions she’s taken, Juarez is also planning for the long-term success of the Dream Center. This includes expanding legal aid services, integrating with other City College departments to better service undocumented students, building partnerships with existing community organizations, and creating financial aid opportunities for undocumented students who are currently unable to access federal student aid.

Another area of concern that Juarez is addressing, and will continue to do so as the case makes its way through the courts, relates to the temporary nature of DACA protections that have left an air of uncertainty over the program since its inception.

So far, roughly 25% of her casework has been helping those seeking DACA-related advice after a federal appeals court ruled the program unlawful. The case was sent back to a lower court after the Biden Administration submitted their own rule regarding the program, and DACA recipients currently remain protected under the Obama-era program while litigation continues.

When asked how this uncertainty impacted the future of the Dream Center, Juarez was adamant that, regardless of the outcome, the center would continue in its mission to support undocumented students at City College.

“Right now we’re still waiting on that decision to be made and what’s going to happen after it comes back from the courts,” she said. “And I hope students know that whatever happens, they have support. It won’t be the end.”

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