The “Undocu Drop-In” Project: An Interview with a Bay Area Inspire Awardee

At the start of 2016, Philanthropic Ventures Foundation (PVF) awarded grants to eight young Bay Area residents with fresh ideas for building better communities. These awards were made possible through the Bay Area Inspire Awards, which provides $10,000 grants to 18-30 year olds living in San Francisco, Alameda, and San Mateo Counties. Below is an interview with one of these awardees, Reyna Maldonado, who used her award to support undocumented youth through a three-pronged approach that includes a workshop series, drop-in and mobile resource clinic, and education conference.

PVF: Tell us about your project. What inspired you to launch it?

Reyna: The Undocu Drop-In is a free youth-led clinic that supports undocumented youth. We conduct intakes with clients, identify their barriers and motivators, and find the services or support they are eligible for. Youth conduct online research and have begun to assemble a database of resources on the following topics: emergency housing, medical and mental health services, health insurance, obtaining identification and driver’s licenses, the Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), workers’ rights, the California DREAM Act and DACA application requirements, the college application process (including the BOG Fee Waiver and AB 540), and the job application process (including resume writing and preparing for job interviews).

This project was inspired by undocumented San Francisco youth who face criminalization and deportation and have limited access to internships with stipends. The Undocu Drop-In was born out of the struggle that young immigrants and undocumented people face and gives them the opportunity to learn community organizing skills, research and policy advocacy targeting immigration, social justice and health rights. Many youth are also passionate about facilitating trainings that empower youth identity and voice, and this project creates a safe space for youth to come together, learn, share and mobilize with each other using available resources.

In the current political climate and in the midst of anti-immigration policies attacking our community, we strongly believe that this work is critical to our immigrant communities.

PVF: Tell us about some of your project accomplishments to date.

Reyna: Youth leaders were able to attend the DREAM Summit in Los Angeles, an event that empowers immigrant youth to be the next generation of social justice leaders through leadership and professional development opportunities.

I have seen youth develop and facilitate curriculum, both in English and Spanish, around the school to prison and detention center pipeline and around the history of immigration in Central America.

I have also seen youth leaders graduate from high school, apply for and receive legal status, apply for college, and get off probation:

  • 50% youth received some form of immigration status
  • 25% youth applied for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
  • 25% youth graduated from high school and enrolled in CCSF and/or programs at SF State
  • 25% youth got off probation earlier than the actual date

We have served Undocu Drop-In clients from all over the world:

  • México: 23%
  • Honduras: 23%
  • China: 18%
  • El Salvador: 9%
  • Nicaragua: 9%
  • Guatemala: 5%
  • Ecuador: 5%
  • Venezuela: 5%
  • Kazakhstan: 5%

PVF: What are the next steps for your project?

Reyna: I will be working with another group of undocumented youth in Oakland. I am stepping back from this program in San Francisco as I feel confident that the youth here are ready to work on this Undocu Drop-In project with the support of two other youth senior supervisors.

PVF: What is your hope with how this project will create change in the community?

Reyna: We hope that this project continues to grow and that more people understand and recognize the support and resources that the immigrant community needs to continue to thrive. We hope that more and more immigrant youth lead spaces like these. We hope that the impact that we have continues to grow as people succeed (graduate from high school, apply for and receive legal status, apply for college, get off probation, etc.) and keep building. Our community is strong and powerful, and we believe that we are a reflection of our hard work and effort.

PVF: What would you like donors to know about funding community projects led by young people like yourself?

Reyna: Invest in youth-led immigrant rights projects! We have lots of creative and innovative ideas that help our community. We are underfunded, and there are not many programs that give incentives or employ undocumented youth. In times where we are resisting so much hate, criminalization, and incarceration, we ask that you fund projects like ours.

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