More than a dozen Cal State Long Beach students shared their experiences and views on immigration at the Nugget Grill and Pub last night as part of “Love is Not Illegal”.
At the event, attendees and members of the Future Underrepresented Educated Leaders, a student organization made up of Assembly Bill 540 students and their supporters, talked candidly about overcoming personal struggles regarding immigration.
AB540, which was signed into law in 2001, allows eligible undocumented students to pay in-state tuition at public college and universities, according to the CSULB Office of Government, Legislative, and Community Relations.
Some FUEL members who spoke were undocumented students.
“We hope you walk away with more knowledge and an awareness of how immigration reform is affecting your peers,” FUEL President Karina Hernandez said to attendees before the beginning of the event.
Hernandez read a poem that several FUEL members wrote together. The poem described their desire to overcome their struggles and achieve their dreams.
Throughout the event, Hernandez invited people in the audience to take a picture with a large handmade poster of a monarch butterfly, a symbol that senior English major and the event’s first speaker Elizabeth Zambrano said represents the “right to move freely.”
“Human beings have the right to move to safer places, and many of us moved here so we could be safe,” Zambrano said. “The butterfly represents the immigration movement.”
Hernandez said they hope that by sharing these photos via social media, they will increase awareness of their mission and goals, such as creating a Dream Resource Center on campus.
“We are pushing for humane immigration reform so families can stay together and so students can have a secure future,” she said.
Many participants voiced their love for their families through poems and stories. Others voiced their struggles with applying for college and “being seen as a number and statistic instead of a person.”
Junior film and electronic arts major Alex Mohtashem, who became involved with FUEL earlier this year, said he was grateful for the club’s presence and activism.
“I was born in this country but being surrounded by the people in FUEL showed me immigration is not a hugely political issue, but a human issue,” he said. “It opened my eyes to see that this isn’t about one people or one problem.”
Associated Students Inc. Chief of Staff Joseph Phillips also participated and voiced ASI’s support for FUEL’s mission.
“This is the first year that ASI and FUEL have come together to achieve history,” he said. “I think that together we can do a lot.”
Erika Suarez, senator-at-large for ASI and active FUEL member, said the event is held near Valentine’s Day because its central theme is love.
“We share our stories to show that love and acceptance should not be stopped by an imaginary border,” Suarez said. “That applies to everyone, whether you’re undocumented or are a part of the [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer] community, or whatever. Love should be universal.”
Hernandez said FUEL meetings take place every Tuesday from 4:00 to 5:30 p.m. in the Psychology building, Room 202.