The Toro Dreamers Success Center has provided critical resources for CSUDH’s undocumented community since 2017. Going forward, that support will continue under a new name that better aligns with its core mission and values—the Immigrant Justice Center (IJC).
A formal ribbon-cutting event was held at the center’s office on the first floor of Loker Student Union and upstairs in the Palm Courtyard. Students, alumni, faculty, and staff celebrated the reopening with food, music, cultural experiences, and an open house that highlighted key services available to CSUDH’s undocumented community.
The center offers undocumented students a range of services and amenities, from academic and financial guidance to legal services, school supplies and testing materials, food, and hygiene products. Visitors can also access community space to study, socialize, or just relax.
The name change was a long time coming, says IJC Director Ana Miriam Barragan, who joined CSUDH in 2018 and immediately wanted to find a more inclusive focus for the organization. “I knew we needed to move away from the Dreamers narrative, but we needed to educate people about why that was the case.”
Barragan says she began to see a shift in perspective during the spring of 2022, and that conversations with Asian, Pacific Islander, and Black undocumented students really encouraged her. “These communities didn’t feel comfortable coming to our space because they felt they were not truly represented. This is not just a Latinx issue. I want to make sure that we’re uplifting the voices of other immigrants as well.”
Karota K. grew up in Mutare, Zimbabwe, and followed her sister to the United States as a teenager. She’s undocumented, but other family members have become citizens. Now 32, she’s on track to graduate next year with a degree in psychology.
“I think the most important benefit the center provides is support. You really need access to a community of people that understands what you’re going through and can identify with your experience,” says Karota, who began working for the center during the COVID lockdown and helped establish its UndocuBlack program that serves mixed-status and undocumented Black students like herself.
“Not a lot of undocumented students have that, especially when it comes to higher education. Even family members might not fully understand the challenges we face. In the center, you’re around like-minded people, even if they come from different backgrounds.”
Maria Ortega Cortez, 20, was born in Guerrero, Mexico, but fled with her mother at the age of four to escape a violent father. She is undocumented and works as a fellow at the IJC to help pay for her education. She’s majoring in human services and ultimately wants to pursue a graduate degree.
“I want to go into social work and help communities like my own, undocumented families and particularly children,” Lopez says, adding that the center has given her hope for the future. “The free legal services are really important to me. I recently found out that I was qualified to apply for the Special Immigrant Juvenile program, which offers a pathway to citizenship.”
The reopening event also honored five women whose contributions over the years helped shape the original Toro Dreamers Success Center and laid the foundation for its continued work. The center’s Marco Antonio Firebaugh Legacy Award takes its name from the state assembly member who authored and advocated for passage of AB 540. The landmark bill expanded in-state tuition eligibility for undocumented students and others. Recipients were:
- Corina Benevides-López, Associate Professor of Chicana and Chicano Studies
- Mayra Soriano, Interim AVP, Student Success
- Joanna Perez, Associate Professor of sociology
- Brenda Mendez, Interim Director and Lead Career Coach, College of Education
- Norma Quintero, Clinical Psychologist with Student Psychological Services
In presenting the awards, Barragan thanked the recipients for their steadfast support of the center and the student communities it serves. “This work is a labor of love, and we cannot do it alone. The center is a beautiful example of how we can come together and create something magical here at CSUDH.”
The Immigrant Justice Center is located in Loker Student Union, room 111. The center is open Monday to Wednesday from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., and on Thursday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Services are also available by appointment. The center can be reached at email@example.com or (310) 243-3837.