‘Undocumented’ and ‘Unafraid’
Students gather to voice their support for immigration reform and to share their experiences.
The ASUCI Office of the President worked in conjunction with several student activists on campus to host a rally on Wednesday, May 15 at the Student Center, supporting immigration reform and DREAM Act student resources. Students gathered on the terrace for the event titled, “Anteaters in Solidarity with 11 Million” — referencing the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States.
“Anteaters in Solidarity” was made possible by a group of concerned students, members of the DREAM community and ASUCI AB540 Liaisons, with the help of members from DREAM LA and OC DREAM Team.
Third-year political science student Christopher Galeano was amongst the student activists outside of ASUCI, working to bring this event together. Galeano previously spent three months in Washington D.C. working hands-on with immigration policy.
“I learned a lot about immigration policy briefing and felt it was important to bring that back to UCI,” Galeano said.
Galeano was one of the many rally participants that took to the stage at noon. Rally-goers approached the microphone to share their stories, show their support for immigration reform and urge students to push for immediate change. Faculty and staff members of the university also participated — including professors Leo Chaves and Claudia Piñeda, as well as SOAR Director Graciela Fernandez and Campus Organizations Director, Sherwynn Umali.
This was also an opportunity for DREAMers to share their narratives about being undocumented students in California. These students were met with support from fellow students who chanted “undocumented and unafraid!” as well as the solidarity of DREAMers from other UC campuses who also spoke during the event.
Guest speakers gave audience members localized context of how issues regarding immigration directly affect the Irvine community, and the sphere of UC Irvine. Alumnus Abraham Medina raised awareness about the surge of immigrant deportation in Santa Ana, and he followed with a spoken word piece that had many in the crowd cheering. CSU Long Beach alumnus, Tony Otuño spoke on behalf of the OC DREAM Team, mentioning the changing dynamics of immigrants in Orange County as well as the growing importance of supporting queer undocumented immigrants.
The urgency for immigration reform resonated throughout the rally as protestors proclaimed “If not now, when?” and “The DREAM is now! The time is now!” Many protestors suggested that students contact their congressional representatives about immigration reform and asked them to sign a petition that would reintroduce the TRUST Act — a bill that would limit how law enforcement cooperates with federal authorities on deportation.
DREAMer and transfer student, Andrea Gordillo was amongst the activists who gave their stories and expressed the need to have a space for DREAM students. Gordillo, a third-year global cultures major, currently serves as one of the AB540 Campus Liaisons within the ASUCI Office of the President.
“We really wanted to have the rally especially because of the immigration reform going through congress right now and to also bring awareness to the fact that we have DREAMers on campus” Gordillo said. “As UC campus we need to care about this issue and be mindful and respectful of these students.”
Participants spoke about the need to have resources for AB540/DREAM students and to reestablish DREAMers at UCI. The DREAM community originally made way on campus in 2006, however, due to the steep tuition hike in late 2009, many AB540 students were forced to drop out. In 2011 the California DREAM Act passed, making higher education more accessible to undocumented students. With a rise of DREAMers in the UC came a need for an organization and resources for these students, thus leading to the reemergence of DREAMers at UCI.
DREAMers and allies have suggested to the Chancellor and Vice Chancellor that administration create a centralized space for DREAM student resources including a website for AB540 resources. A few organizations have already made some resources a reality with ASUCI’s Get DREAMs webpage, assistance from the SOAR center, and the support of the Asian Pacific Student Association, as well as other DREAM friendly groups on campus. However, students feel the need for administration to make a move on creating a more welcoming campus for DREAM students.
Gordillo hopes to see a continued effort on behalf of students to make the DREAMers at UCI organization more established on campus with prospects of boothing at the Anteater Involvement Fair in the fall.
“Most dreamers are not willing to seek the information they need because they don’t want to be discriminated, they are afraid.” Gordillo said. “So, we want for our organization to be out there and tell the DREAMers that come to UCI next fall that we are here and we want to be their support base.”