Rep. Alan Lowenthal, D–Long Beach, said the recent incident where José Alvarez was deported after being detained in the Cal State Long Beach University Police substation should have never happened in a roundtable and forum on immigration the congressman hosted Monday.
“I’m in a climate in the Congress where a lot of people want to duck this issue,” Lowenthal said. “We know that a lot of people are being deported who should never be deported.”
The roundtable speakers, who met inside the Walter Pyramid, included Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, CSULB President Jane Close Conoley, Associated Students, Inc. President José Salazar and student representatives of various cultural organizations on campus, among others.
“If you had held this three months ago, I would have just been beaming about all the wonderful things that we do and all the great successes that we have,” Conoley said. “But it’s not three months ago. It’s today.”
She said the university is currently seeking outside consultation and going through a process of self-reflection to be sure the “policies really do match our aspirations,” and identified the need for simplified comprehensive immigration reform.
“Because [immigration law] is amazingly complex and interpreted in so many different ways depending on where you live, it puts all of us in some danger of not behaving in ways that match our dreams,” Conoley said.
CSULB’s Officer I. Sanchez detained Alvarez for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to come and pick him up after Sanchez pulled Alvarez over for a broken headlight Feb. 21.
Andrea Donado, a community organizer with the Greater Long Beach Interfaith Community Organization, called for all those in attendance to do whatever they could to support the attempt to bring Alvarez back and reunite him with his family, as well to support legislation that would prevent this from happening again at any other university.
After the roundtable, the congressman met with Victor, Alvarez’ son, and Alexis Teodoro, the Southwest regional organizer for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, who said his organization may provide Alvarez with legal representation.
“Your dad is just another example of someone [who] was caught up in a totally broken system that really now discriminates against people who’ve been here for many years, who are trying to do better, trying to give back to the country and yet are caught in this cycle,” Lowenthal said to Victor.
In the meeting, Lowenthal said he would contribute to bringing Alvarez back by helping draft a letter to the University Police demanding to know under what authority CSULB Officer Sanchez had acted on behalf of ICE to arrest Alvarez and hold him for ICE to come and deport.
Lowenthal also said he would help to be an advocate to Conoley on behalf of the Alvarez family.
He stressed the importance of ensuring that CSULB is able to lead the way in making sure that all colleges in California become sanctuary campuses, where they would refuse to cooperate with ICE to deport students.
Lowenthal, who said he could not say what “sanctuary campus” would entail, said he was open to whatever students wanted it to mean, whether the term applied to students only or any undocumented person on campus.
The roundtable was aimed at educating elected officials about the critical issues facing undocumented students and U.S. students whose parents are deported.[sidebar title=”Mayor Robert Garcia also spoke at the roundtable on immigration. Here is what he had to say: ” align=”left” background=”on” border=”top” shadow=”on”]
I’m a pretty good example of what can happen when you allow immigrants in this country the opportunity to learn, to get an education, to give back to their country and to contribute. I’m just like any other immigrant out there that got a chance, and I feel fortunate that I was given an opportunity to come to this country.
I came when I was five years old. I grew up low income. I lived in portable housing. I lived in government subsidized housing for parts of my life — eight of us usually in a small apartment, bouncing around different cities — not much different from a lot of immigrant families.
And I give thanks to this university for kind of welcoming me, being the first of my family to go to school, go to college, get an education. I ended up [at Cal State Long Beach] in some ways by accident. I was a young kid and an immigrant.
I did not become a U.S. citizen until I was a student at Cal State Long Beach. It was while I was here that I actually gained citizenship.[/sidebar]