By Maricela Lechuga
For some, a knock on the door is never as harmless as it seems.
“You always have this fear of having to look over your shoulder,” said Luis, a fifth-year computer engineering major. “You have to be careful of what you say, because [if] you tell the wrong people you never know what might happen to you. There might be a knock at the door saying, ‘This is ICE [Immigration and Custom Enforcement].’”
Luis, who like other members did not wish to give his last name, has been involved in Students Informing Now (SIN) for two years. SIN is an action-based organization composed of both AB 540 students and their allies.
The group’s activism is based on the education and promotion of immigrant rights, specifically AB 540, the non-resident tuition exemption law under which undocumented students and non-resident documented students qualify to pay in-state tuition at California universities after three years of attending a California high school or earning a California GED.
Although non-resident students can pay in-state tuition at California universities, they do not have the opportunity to apply for financial aid.
Therefore, they are frequently forced to finance their education through working multiple jobs and applying for private scholarships.
Juan, a first-year SIN member, talked about the extra struggle that AB 540 students face in order to make ends meet.
“We’re students, yet we have this extra stuff that we have to worry about,” Juan said. “Unlike many other students who were privileged enough to be born here in the United States and who don’t have to worry about not having enough money for tuition, we have to apply to many scholarships in order to have enough money to pay for tuition and housing.”
For this reason, SIN advocates the right to a free education for everyone by promoting and advocating the Federal Dream Act and the California Dream Act, which would allow immigrant students to gain permanent status if accepted to a four-year university and thus be allowed to apply for financial aid.
More than just a student organization, SIN has become a safe haven for AB 540 students searching for security in a country which they feel has been hostile towards their identities, through realities such as immigration raids and minutemen that terrorize immigrant communities and force them to live in a constant state of fear.
Mariela, a third-year theater arts major, explains how SIN is a safety net that turns the apprehension evoked by one’s illegal status into a platform for resistance, allowing herself and others to live a life “sin vergüenza,” or “without shame.”
“Our presence as a group, our [mere] existence is a way of creating safety in an unsafe world because the world isn’t welcoming to what we do,” Mariela said. “In a world where you live in fear because of your identity, SIN is a form of resistance toward that fear and a way of fighting it.”
In collaboration with UCSC professors Kysa Nygreen and Veronica Velez, the SIN collective wrote an academic article that is already accessible in two different UCSC course readers.
The article is titled “Students Informing Now Challenge the Racial State in California without shame … SIN vergüenza.”
They will be presenting this scholarly article at the American Educational Research Association in New York over spring break. However, due to issues of legal status, not all members of SIN will be able to attend the conference.
Despite this, members who consider themselves privileged enough to travel, such as Mariela, recognize the importance of representing what SIN stands for across the country in a responsible and conscious manner. Not all people living in this country live with the same freedoms, Mariela said.
“SIN is recognizing the privilege I carry by having a social security number,” Mariela said.
_For more information on SIN, contact the group at