What’s Next for Dreamers at UCI?
Nidia Bello Advocates for the Dream Act
by Karen Meza
Nidia Bello is a motivated UCI student who devotes her time to advocating for immigration rights. This fall she will be starting her fourth and last year at UCI. She will be graduating with a B.A. in psychology and social behavior and a minor in Chicano/Latino studies.
If you looked at Bello, you would assume she is like any other student at UCI, but you would not know that her strong and resilient character is the results of overcoming obstacles throughout her life.
Since she was very young, her family has instilled in her the value of education. She has also known from a young age that she was undocumented. That’s why today she continually devotes her energy toward passing permanent legislation that would help immigrants.
Bello was mentally preparing herself for Sept. 5, which she knew was the deadline President Trump had given to make a decision about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Even before the decision to end DACA was announced, she says that students who receive DACA have been “living in a constant limbo, having to deal with all this anxiety and frustration, while trying to do well in school.”
Although she has found a support system with the UCI community through Safire, an organization of students advocating for immigrant rights and equity as well as the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA), being on campus is not always easy.
“Irvine is conservative, and it’s hard to hear negative rhetoric from students,” said Bello.
It is even more difficult when people start to blame the parents, some of whom have fled their countries where they did not feel safe, and saw no way of providing a good life for their children. Many people are misinformed about the immigration process, and make false assumptions about people who are undocumented. The U.S. is a home to 800,000 students who live with constant anxiety and frustration. If permanent legislature to protect undocumented students who have lived in the U.S. their whole lives is not passed, many will have to drop their dreams and ambitions.
“DACA recipients will not be working in fields they studied for, they now have healthcare which would be taken away, and it’s not something that is often talked about. They won’t be able to apply to many graduate programs or scholarships,” she said. “It’s not fair to send people back.”
Even before DACA ended, Bello had been working with the California Dream Network, which is a project of CHIRLA meant to promote the Dream Act, a permanent solution to undocumented youth pursuing an education similar to DACA. The Dream Act would include more people, and eventually lead to permanent residency status for students. There are a lot of people on board, and Bello is working daily to push representatives to vote for the Dream Act.
Bello is using her frustration and anger to power through and keep working toward helping others. She works with a law firm to keep the public informed. She informs undocumented UCI students about resources available to them on campus, one of which is the Dream Center located in Lot 5. She encourages UCI students to be informed, share information, and to be active.