By Eliza Partika
Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) hosted a rally on campus in support of DACA on Oct. 11. The event featured a variety of speakers, including several current UCI students who shared their stories.
Senator Harris has traditionally supported immigration reform policies. She is the daughter of an immigrant to the United States, and as such, has been a champion for DACA students.
The rally was held to advocate for a “clean” DREAM Act, meaning that the repassage of the DREAM Act will not include red tape like “interior enforcement” policies. Such policies make it more difficult for DACA and DREAM Act recipients to become legal citizens of the United States, and even increase their chances of being deported.
Senator Harris said that the federal government’s rescission of DACA is unfair to those who adhered to the program’s stipulations.
“[DACA recipients] filled out the paperwork,” she said. “The United States government promised that if you give us this information about your personal background and your life and family, we promise that we would not share that information with ICE. I daresay we might not be keeping our promise, and that is wrong.”
Still, she encouraged students to stay hopeful.
“The path right now is rocky, it is difficult, it is hard. We are witnessing things we can only describe as awful and wrong, and mean-spirited, but that’s okay, ‘cause we keep getting out of bed every day,” she said. “When I look out at you, students at the University of California, I see the future. I see the beginning of the next great movement that will always be about fighting for the ideals of our country.”
A group of about 15 protesters stood against a crowd of hundreds of students chanting slogans including, “Show me what community looks like; this is what community looks like!” and “Say it loud, say it clear, immigrants are welcome here!” Harris continued to speak amid the protests.
“Right now there are forces that are trying to divide us as a nation. There are forces that are being fueled by hate, being fueled by this idea that we should point at each other and blame each other. And we are not going to let them divide us,” she said, met with cheers. “Stand proud. Don’t you let anybody make you believe you are doing anything other than fighting for the best of who we are as a nation.”
Other speakers included Steven Lee, UCI law professor and associate dean for faculty research and development, who spoke about the legal facts behind immigration.
“What social and legal scientists have found is that children help their parents access goods and services in the mainstream, a process known as intermediating,” he said.
Intermediating, he continued, is not only a process that means immigrant children are helping parents access goods and services, it means that they have a deeper understanding of what connects a nation, since it is the children of the first-gen immigrants who must translate the world to their parents, and as interpreters, must understand the world of their parents and the country they call home.
“DREAMers are not special because they are entrepreneurs who create jobs,” Lee said. “There are no DREAMers whose parents didn’t strike out into the night to pursue that dream. DREAMers are special because they create new conversations we never thought possible.”
Students also spoke about their experiences as undocumented immigrants.
Jenny Park, a fourth-year psychology major at UCI and the Retention Coordinator for SOAR, discussed some of the challenges and triumphs of being undocumented.
“I have been trying to paint over the wrong and unjust stereotypes of undocumented individuals,” Park said.. “[DACA protesters] do not know what it feels like to earn our rights and yet they dehumanize it. We did not migrate to sabotage this land but to prosper with it.”
Another student continued, “Today I am not afraid to share my immigration status. I know now that the best advocate is oneself.”
Paulina Jimenez, a fourth-year criminology and urban studies major at UCI, was thankful for the opportunities and the hardships that made her who she is today.
“I’ve always been supported by people who do not let me give up,” Jimenez said. “Not only am I a DACA recipient, I am a recipient of love.”