UCI Builds Bridges with Immigration Awareness Week

By Eliza Partika

UCI’s SOAR office organized an Immigration Week from March 6 to 10 to to raise awareness and give support to undocumented students at UCI as well as students from diverse communities who have emigrated to the United States.

Events hosted during immigration week ranged from a solidarity bridge intended to “build a bridge in solidarity with immigrant communities,” to a communal prayer to close the week.

At the Student Center Terrace, students volunteering and working to encourage “Immigrant Artistic Expression” featured immigrant student art and welcomed passing students to color their own butterflies or make a tile. The tiles made by students are intended to be used in a new mural to be erected in the SOAR office.

Monarch butterflies were adopted as the symbol of immigrant activists touring the United States on the Undocubus, a movement reminiscent of the Freedom Rides of the 1960s, currently titled “No Papers, No Fear” which is aimed at continuing activism for equal treatment and justice for those who have been deported or are threatened to be deported. “The ride is an arena for mobilizing, where we will build with those who have a story to tell, who have realized the only secure community is an organized one. We have overcome our fears and are ready to set a new example of courage.” says their website, nopapersnofear.org, of their mission.

The monarch butterfly became their symbol  “due to their ability to freely move across borders,” according to a recent ABC News article. For the students at the “Immigrant Artistic Expression” event, the butterfly is significant because it shows the world and the UCI student body that “immigration is beautiful.”

“For us, it is a matter of promoting who we are and celebrating immigration,” said Min Jung Park, the SOAR Dream Office’s Student Coordinator.

A vigil was held at the Student Center Terrace on March 7 to commemorate those who have died while attempting to cross the border or emigrate into the United States and to honor those who successfully made the journey to a new life in the United States. Students huddled together in front of the stage carrying flowers for the living and candles for the dead. Each student left their flowers and candles in a line on the stage and spoke briefly of relatives, loved ones, and people unknown to them who have come to the United States.

“I want to send out prayers for my dad, who got deported in 2005,”  said a student speaker.

“This is a difficult thing that we have to deal with,” said another student. “But sometimes you also win, you know people perish, people live; it really is a gamble.”

Students included stories of other immigrant communities such as refugees from Middle Eastern and Asian countries, stories that spanned generations. One student dedicated her flower to her mother and uncles who came to America from Cambodia due to a genocide that killed approximately one quarter of the population. She dedicated a flower  “to the ones that lost their lives crossing over by boat and coming to the refugee camps from Southeast Asia.”

Following Immigration Week, the SOAR office will be holding events throughout spring quarter, including their Second Annual 2017 Stars of the Future Gala on April 8.