By: Emma Springer and Christina Acevedo
At noon on Wednesday, May 1, students gathered at the flagpoles in front of the UCI campus to stage a walk in solidarity supporting the rights of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees 3299 union, AFSCME, also raising awareness for student immigrants.
The march was part of a larger series of events put on for Immigration Awareness Week. The Associated Students of UC Irvine Campus Climate Commission worked with Students Advocating for Immigrant Rights and Equity (SAFIRE) and United Students Against Sweatshops at UCI (USAS) to host different programs in support of immigrants, specifically undocumented immigrants.
Justine Du, the head organizing commissioner under ASUCI and a member of the USAS Local 65 organization, explained the purpose of AFSCME 3299.
“We work really closely with AFSCME 3299, which is a union that represents our custodial staff. So they represent a lot of the workers that you see around us on campus, and they have been in contract negotiations for over two years now and the UC is still denying a fair contract and continues to exploit their labor. And so we are out here trying to bring awareness to those issues because it’s very close to home, it’s on our campus. This issue is very relevant to all of us,” Du explained.
Du went on to explain that, “They are denying it for a lot of reasons, mainly that they don’t believe that they deserve what they do … if they did then they would give them more money, better health care, better pensions, and stop outsourcing workers.”.
The march began with a walk around the campus through student center and ending near social sciences. As students marched, they also shouted chants such as, “Whose university? Our university!” and “UC, UC, you’re no good, treat your workers like you should!” They concluded by hanging a banner over the bridge to the University Center that read, “Workers and Students Over Profit.”
Further prominent issues within the undocumented community given awareness to this week included, hardships and injustices faced by undocumented LGBT peoples.
Students hosting the event invited activist Yesika Gonzalez to speak with students and give context to issues plaguing and often unbroached in the undocuqueer community. These include but are not limited to: same sex marriage bans, the U.S.’s witholding of residency permanancy, limited healthcare, and finally how best to be supportive of an individual in this dillema.
Gonzalez introduced the theme of the conversation by explaining the term “UndocuQueer,” which refers to an undocumneted LGBT person.
Historically, marginalization following this particular demographic has included preventing them fromm being able to acquire permanent residency on account of factors like HIV bans that lasted from the early 90s until 2010, as well as same-sex marriage bans.
Other forms of discrimination undocuqueer peoples have been subjected to lie within the territory of sexual violence, explained Gonzalez.
She talked about the sexual violence that occurs against trans women in detention centers, explaining how LGBT people move to evade financial hardship and persecution.
Gonzalez asked listeners to consider the emotional and mental hardships corollary to undocuqueer identity. She discussed how undocuqueer individuals can feel as though they need to “come out” twice, both in regards to their sexuality as well as their undocumented status.
Students engaged Gonzalez in converstion, sharing with her that they worried about how their romantic partners and friends would perceive them differently after they shared that they were undocumented with them.
Gonzalez’s advice asked students to be allies towards undocuqueer individuals. She encouraged students to feel comfortable to ask undocuqueer individuals how they feel best supported, and in doing so to continue learning about their experiences, and to establish personal relationships with them.
The event concluded by adressing postcards, signed by students, to the democratic senator, Katie Porter, in an effort to encourage her to sign the Dream and Promise Act of 2019 in support of undocumented or DACA students.