The University of California, Berkeley has received a $1 million gift from the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund. The money will provide scholarships for almost 200 students who are illegal immigrants.
The award is the largest individual donation any American university has ever received for scholarships of this kind, reports the Santa Cruz Sentinel. It will go toward the school’s Dreamers Fund, an initiative designed to help improve access to education among illegal immigrant students.
UC Berkeley students from some 20 different countries who came to the United States as children and are still living in the country illegally while attending the prestigious university will receive the scholarship money.
While federal law does not allow illegal immigrants to receive Pell Grants, subsidized student loans or work-study aid, the 2011 California Dream Act made such students eligible for privately endowed scholarships and state-sponsored financial aid.
“We feel like these dreamers have already beaten the odds,” said Denis Chicola, a spokesperson for the Haas Jr. Fund, according to The Daily Californian. “They have really proven themselves as hardworking students.”
Not everyone is slapping themselves on the back, though.
“Clearly it’s unethical,” says Mark Krikorian, executive director of the anti-illegal-immigration Center for Immigration Studies, according to NPR. “What it means is that this foundation is valuing illegal immigrant students above American or legal immigrant students who can’t afford the tuition at the UC system.”
On the other hand, illegal immigrant students who are eligible to receive part of the Haas Jr. Fund gift are in high spirits.
“It makes a huge difference for me to come back and fund my education,” eligible student Uriel Rivera told the Daily Cal.
Another philanthropic member of the Haas family, Elise Haas, has donated an additional $300,000 as seed money for the Robert D. Haas Dreamers Resource Center at UC Berkeley, according to ABC News. Planners envision it as a provider of support services for illegal immigrant students.
The Haas family fortune stems from the vast worldwide success of Levi Strauss & Co. Walter A. Haas, Jr.’s great-great-uncle was Levi Strauss, himself an immigrant from what is now southeast Germany.